Good morning, Kerr County!
We hit a high of 99 on Wednesday and things don't look much cooler over the next few days, especially this weekend. The crushing heat wave will continue for the next week — or longer. There had been a chance of some rain in the forecast on Monday, but that appears to have faded. Stay hydrated, stay cool and be mindful of the temperatures.
On today's The Lead Live!
Rachel Fitch will storm back on the show after having to miss Wonderful Wednesday — she was on a mission. Andrew Gay will give us the market update and 21st Congressional District candidate Claudia Zapata will tell us about her race for Congress. The Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau's Leslie Jones will update us on all of the activities this weekend, including the big community parade in Center Point.
And here's a look at today's events
- Reno Collier and Nathaniel Amador — Arcadia Live, 6 p.m. Information: https://www.thearcadialive.org
Science and Nature
- Nature Nights — Riverside Nature Center, 6 p.m. Information: 830-257-4837 The details: Universal Love: Solar System Bracelets
- Jesse Owen Band — Gravity Check Saloon and Arena, 6 p.m. Information: Jesse Owen Band The details: Open mic night with the Jesse Owen Band. Bring an instrument, or borrow one from the band, and play and sing some country music.
- Braydon Zink — Southern Sky Music Cafe, 6:45 p.m. Information: https://www.southernskymusiccafe.com/calendar-of-events
- Jake Asbury — Joanne Marie and Me Wine Boutique, 6 p.m. Information: (936) 554-8326
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Speaking of Rachel Fitch
Pawn shop owner Rachel Fitch told us on Wednesday that she will no longer sell AR-15s (not necessarily a big part of her business) and she sold her remaining rifles to another arms seller in Kerrville. The AR-15, or versions of it, seem to be the weapon of choice in mass shootings, including in Uvalde. AR-15 rifles were used in at least eight mass shootings since 2012. Fitch said she doesn't want to be responsible for selling the gun to the wrong person, but she's still carrying firearms at her two Kerrville pawn shops.
In case you missed it — there's a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting today
You haven't started living until you've attended a 4 p.m. Kerrville planning and zoning commission meeting! And that's exactly what's happening at City Hall today. We'll provide live coverage of all the excitement on our Facebook page.
The P&Z will tackle seven-short term rentals. The commission has its hands full today with at least two properties facing opposition to approving conditional-use permits. Here's some of our analysis from earlier in the week.
Judge Pat Patillo, the 216th District Court judge, opposes the approval of a short-term rental at 1701 Foothills Drive. And, he's not the only one.
"It is a well-regarded fact that it is a very quiet neighborhood with no known amenities appealing to outsiders, such as the river, parks, or water features," wrote Ruth Spradling, who lives nearby and said she's a former member of the P&Z.
Those who oppose the rentals, often managed through popular online sites like Airbnb or VRBO, use common complaints ranging from destroying the character of a neighborhood to traffic. There are also significant worries about the constant flow of unknown people to a neighborhood.
"This is a family neighborhood and is deed restricted to single-family residences," Pattillo wrote. "An STR at this address is out of place and will negatively impact this neighborhood. I am all in favor of the important rights of property owners to do as they please with their property so long as the exercise of those rights does not negatively impact the rights of any other property owners."
However, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that deed restrictions cannot block short-term rentals. The right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation led the charge against regulations, including a 2019 case where the Texas Court of Appeals found the city of Austin's efforts to curb short-term rentals unconstitutional.
"In striking down the Austin ordinance ban on short-term rental use and the restrictions on guest activities within a private residential setting, the Third Court of Appeals stopped the overreach by the city of Austin," wrote Robert Henneke, the general counsel of TPPF.
Report finds fault in Uvalde response
A Uvalde Police Department officer had the opportunity to shoot and kill the man responsible for killing 19 children and two teachers on May 24 at Robb Elementary School but did not take the shot.
A report released Wednesday by Texas State University's ALERRT Center said the Uvalde Police Department didn't have the equipment or initiative to take action against the shooter, was tactically unprepared and didn't follow accepted practice taught to all state law enforcement agencies.
However, the most startling revelation was that a Uvalde officer had the shooter in sight but called his supervisor for permission to take the shot. The ALERRT report said the officer didn't need to ask for permission.
"In this instance, the UPD officer would have heard gunshots and/or reports of gunshots and observed an individual approaching the school building armed with a rifle," the report said. "A reasonable officer would conclude in this case, based upon the totality of the circumstances, that use of deadly force was warranted. Furthermore, the UPD officer was approximately 148 yards from the west hall exterior door. One-hundred and forty-eight yards is well within the effective range of an AR-15 platform."
Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, law enforcement doctrine on active shooters has focused on "Stop the Killing and then "Stop the Dying." ALERRT's analysis said that doctrine seemed to be ignored.
"To adhere to the priority of life, the first responding officers’ actions should be determined based on the current driving force," the report said. "In this instance, there is a suspect actively shooting inside an occupied elementary school. The active gunfire is the driving force, and the officers correctly responded to this driving force by moving toward the rooms that were being attacked."
The report said the shooter crashed his pickup truck at 11:28 a.m., then fired at two workers at a funeral home across the street from Robb Elementary. At 11:31 a.m., the Uvalde officer arrives and spots the shooter. At about the same time, a Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District officer drives through a gate and speeds unto the campus ball field and playgrounds.
The report said the school police officer was driving too fast to see the shooter, and the Uvalde officer hesitated just long enough from taking a shot.
"The officer did comment that he was concerned that if he missed his shot, the rounds could have penetrated the school and injured students," the report said. "We also note that current State of Texas standards for patrol rifle qualifications do not require officers to fire their rifles from more than 100 yards away from the target. It is, therefore, possible that the officer had never fired his rifle at a target that was that far away. Ultimately, the decision to use deadly force always lies with the officer who will use the force. If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and of his backdrop if he missed, he should not have fired."
Instead, the shooter gained access to the school's interior, leading to the killing of 21 and the wounding of 17 others. From that point, the tactical situation slipped further away from the Uvalde authorities.
Established in 2002, ALERRT's trained more than 130,000 police officers in active shooter situations, and the FBI recognized the program as the national standard in this training. With access to video, the scene and audio, the ALERRT report was able to put together a critical timeline and assess the response. ALERRT was asked by the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide the assessment.
In the report, ALERRT identified several problem areas, but most importantly the lack of response to the active shooter.
"The suspect was actively firing his weapon when the officers entered the building, and a reasonable officer would assume that there were injured people in the classrooms," the report said. "The officers also knew the suspect was still alive and preventing them from accessing the wounded in the classrooms. These injured people are a driving force."
Yet the officers waited for more than an hour to go into rooms 111 and 112 where the shooter had holed up. The report said that a lack of clear command was another issue. Uvalde Independent Consolidated School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo is at the center of this issue, and it's clear he viewed this as a barricade and hostage situation rather than an active shooter, but the report says it was always an active shooter event.
"We commend the officers for quickly entering the building and moving toward the sounds of gunfire," the report said. "However, when the officers were fired at, momentum was lost. The officers fell back, and it took more than an hour to regain momentum and gain access to critically injured people."
Arredondo's lack of response is under furious scrutiny by law enforcement, and Col. Steve McCraw of the Department of Public Safety said it was a failure. Arredondo is on administrative leave from the school district, but McCraw is also under fire for the way the incident was disseminated to the community and the media.
Arredondo spent about 10 minutes trying to coax the shooter out of the classroom. The report doesn't clearly say if Arredondo ordered a U.S. Border Patrol SWAT team to enter the room, but they entered at 12:50 p.m. and killed the shooter.
The ALERRT report is one of the first by a law enforcement-focused group to highlight the failures of May 24 at Robb Elementary School.
The report also is critical of the efforts to breach the room and notes that Uvalde police did not initially have the right equipment to breach doors, walls or windows, but they also said it appears that the door to room 111 was unlocked. The ALERRT staff expected officers to have "go bags" or a basic tactical kit required before special weapons and tactical teams could arrive.
But it was the consistent lack of action by law enforcement, all monitored through body cameras and the school's video system, that raised the most questions.
"The UCISD PD Chief did request SWAT/tactical teams," the report said. "SWAT was called, but it takes time for the operators to arrive on scene. In the meantime, it is imperative that an immediate action plan is created. This plan is used if active violence occurs. It appears that the officers did not create an immediate action plan."
In the first three minutes of entering the school, the shooter had fired an estimated 100 rounds into rooms 111 and 112.
"While we do not have definitive information at this point, it is possible that some of the people who died during this event could have been saved if they had received more rapid medical care," the report said.
The best of the Texas GOP's platform
Comedian Lewis Black describes Democrats and Republicans as equally incompetent and troubled. He once said Democrats are psychotic, while Republicans are idiotic. It's been a theme throughout his career.
"We have a two-party system," Black once ranted. "The Democratic Party is a party of no ideas and the Republican Party is the party of bad ideas. The way it works is that a Republican stands up in Congress and goes I got a really bad idea, and the Democrat says I can make it (expletive.)"
The Texas Republican Party has plenty of ideas, many of them bad, but we had to at least read through their 40-page 2022 position platform, which is filled with whoppers like secession, reversing gay marriage, dissolving the Federal Reserve and a few others. However, there are some ideas that aren't necessarily pulled from the John Birch Society or the Lyndon Larouche fan clubs.
Of course, the Republican platform garnered plenty of negative attention, but no one really talked about some of the good ideas. In the sake of fairness, we found 15 good ideas. On Friday, we'll dig into the 15 bad ideas.
Five ideas that are great
- GOP Position: As foreign and domestic threats to cybersecurity evolve, the State of Texas must upgrade systems and system security to meet these threats and share threat intelligence data among levels of government. The integrity of our state and local network infrastructure must be maintained.
- Why it's great: From the local perspective this is an important idea, because studies consistently show municipal government wouldn't know if they were being attacked. Here's a study from Governing https://www.governing.com/now/local-governments-are-attractive-targets-for-hackers-and-are-ill-prepared found that,"almost half of U.S. local governments reported that their IT policies and procedures were not in line with industry best practices."
- GOP Position: We encourage free speech at polling sites outside of the existing boundaries. The right to campaign, including the display of signage, with respect to current state law, at an appropriate distance (100 feet) from the polling place, shall not be infringed.
- Why it's great: It's kind of like a carnival of politicking and it's probably useless when it comes to changing people's minds, but it shows enthusiasm for the spirit of democracy.
- GOP Position: We believe sexual harassment should not be tolerated. Elected and appointed officials should be held to a higher standard.
- Why it's great: It's a no-brainer.
- GOP Position: The use of eminent domain must exclude the seizure of private property for private economic development or increased tax revenue.
- Why it's great: Eminent domain's use could be a hammer for locals, states and feds and it's a tool that should be used sparingly — it really needs to be about the greater good. There are plenty of horrific examples of this tool being used to make others rich, with little or no regard for those who are being evicted.
- GOP Position: We also call upon the Texas Legislature to amend the language of that section of the Open Meetings Act that applies to HOAs to clearly require that every HOA that charges fees to residents be required to comply with every aspect the Texas Open Meetings Act. We oppose HOAs’ limiting freedom of speech and assembly imposed on master-planned community homeowners.
- Why it's great: Transparency is always a good idea.
Five good ideas
- GOP Position: We support the right to recall our elected officials.
- Why it's a good idea: We've said it before, it would be handy for the Kerr County Commissioners Court. They are exempt from recall and removing a bad commissioner is almost impossible.
- GOP Position: Unfunded mandates and under-funded mandates are 207 unacceptable. The State of Texas must fully fund, at a minimum, the following additional costs to local governments: a. Indigent criminal defense. b. Inmate healthcare in jails. c. Indigent burials and autopsies. d. Veteran services offices.
- Why it's a good idea: Unfunded mandates are an issue in Kerr County right now — one that will cost the county in the upcoming bond election. An unfunded mandate to expand the district court from six jurors to 12 was never budgeted for, and the taxpayers are going to pay the bill.
- GOP Position: Allow auto manufacturers to sell directly to consumers.
- Why it's a good idea: The coronavirus pandemic proved the traditional way we would buy goods, and that's through the Internet. It's a complete change that ramped up due to the pandemic. Car dealers are protected in most states by franchise laws that require manufacturers to work through dealers. The manufacturers became savvy digital players with the ability to build a customized vehicle and order it — but the dealer was still in the middle of the purchase. There are some legitimate questions here about the impact on customers regarding service, warranties and recalls, but it still is an interesting take.
- GOP Position: We support requiring audio or video recording of closed sessions and allowing taxpayers to seek limited civil penalties for school trustees who violate the Texas Open Meetings Act. We believe an open meetings violation should be an affirmative defense to a charge or disrupting a public meeting.
- Why it's a good idea: If you can live stream your football game with multiple cameras, you can record or livestream the school board meetings. While this proposal doesn't require the regular meeting to be recorded, it's a practice that needs to happen. And the excuse about expense isn't there anymore.
- GOP Position: We strongly support H.R.1700—Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act—116th Congress (2019-2020), introduced by Rep. Chip Roy, which would designate Trans-criminal Crime Organizations (TCO) identified as Drug Cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) with the intention of enhancing the policing policy related to Drug Cartels. Furthermore, we request that the State of Texas establish a Counter Terrorism Division that could enforce Anti-Terrorist laws to deter the trafficking of drugs, people, and any other illegal activity across our southern border.
- Why it's a good idea: A good idea from Rep. Chip Roy is always welcome. Roy is right about the cartels and their destruction of peace and security in Mexico. It's well documented that their brutality is meant to terrorize people, and it's time for it to stop.
Five ideas to think about
So, these are ideas that we're interested in hearing fleshed out a bit more, but they have our interest.
- GOP Position: Government Pensions: The Texas Legislature shall enact new rules to begin to transition government pensions for public sector employees from a defined benefit pension to a defined contribution retirement plan similar to a 403(b).
- Why we're thinking about it: Public employee pensions are a problem across the country, and there are no easy solutions here. What concerns us is that Republicans also seem to think that 401 or 403 plans that are invested in the market are good enough — they're not.
- GOP Position: Tax dollars should not be used to fund the building of stadiums for professional or semi-professional sports teams.
- Why we're thinking about it: There are so many examples of civic investment in professional and semi-professional sports stadiums bankrupting cities that it's an understandable concern. There are some examples of private-public partnerships where it can work, but Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has revolutionized a lot of the work with private financing — and he builds palaces.
- GOP Position: We call for the repeal or revision of Senate Bill 393 (2013). We call for mandatory reporting to law enforcement of school children who have committed violent acts on school property.
- Why we're thinking about it: If you really think about this it's a no-brainer, but what defines a violent act? That's where we're stuck.
- GOP Position: All individuals should be allowed to establish health savings accounts. Individuals should be allowed higher annual contributions to health savings accounts.
- Why we're thinking about it: We've had them and like them. However, there are tax drawbacks, acceptance issues and some challenges with rollovers. A good idea, but they need to expand this a bit.
- GOP Position: We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve no-knock warrant procedures to protect law enforcement and the community.
- Why we're thinking about it: There's lots of discussion about riots among the GOP, and this was one of the reasons why there were riots. However, at the same time, we're sympathetic to police having to do their job in difficult circumstances. Improving the procedures is a good idea.