Good morning, Kerr County!
So, you're probably wondering about the weather this weekend. We will give it to you plain — HOT! Today hot. Tomorrow hotter. Here's the National Weather Service to explain it: "The primary story over the weekend will be excessive heat as a broad H5 ridge currently centered to our east will retrograde westward towards Colorado and New Mexico." You're looking at 100 degrees or hotter through Tuesday before we could see a merciful return to the 90s. There doesn't seem to be a consensus on thunderstorms for Monday, but there's always a chance. Here's the forecast and data related to our heat wave.
Year-to-date rainfall vs. what we'd normally expect
A month-by-month look at 2022 vs. average rainfall
Our long summer could get longer, hotter!
On today's The Lead Live!
We have no idea who will show up today! However, we can tell you it will be a great show!
Check out our episode of The Leslie: Your look at Weekend Happenings!
Ice cream with a Cop — Chick-Fil-A, 2-4 p.m. The details: Enjoy ice cream with members of your hardworking Kerrville Police Department team at Kerrville Chick-fil-A for a cool refreshing treat!
- Kerrville Farmers Market — A.C. Schreiner Mansion, 4 p.m. Information: https://kerrvillefarmersmarket.com/ The details: Come down and enjoy a complimentary beer, or buy a handcrafted pizza and enjoy the market.
Science and Nature
- 1-on-1 with a naturalist — Riverside Nature Center, 10 a.m. Information: https://www.riversidenaturecenter.org The details: Naturalist, author, and columnist Jim Stanley and Texas Master Naturalist and native plant enthusiast John Hucksteadt will be available to meet one-on-one to answer questions, discuss various topics, or listen to ideas about nature.
- Stan Morris — Cafe at the Ridge, 6 p.m. Information: https://www.shopsattheridge.com
- The Lonestar Souvenirs — The Hunt Store, 7 p.m. Information: https://www.thehuntstore.com
- MishMash Band — Pier 27 River Lounge and Pizzeria, 8 p.m. Information: 830-896-7437 The details: Music set lists reflect the most popular rock and dance songs from the 1960s through today.
- Sam Lewis — Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University, 8 p.m. Information: Trailhead Beer Garden The details: Singer/songwriter from Kerrville who plays both covers and original work.
- Kevin McCormick — Joanne Marie and Me Wine Boutique, 6 p.m. Information: (936) 554-8326
- Kerrville Open Pro Rodeo — Hill Country Youth Event Center, 8 p.m. Information: https://www.lmrodeo.com The details: Lester Meier Rodeo Company presents Kerrville Open Pro Rodeo. Rodeo events include bull riding, bareback & saddle bronc riding, ladies barrel racing, calf roping, team roping, mini bull and mini bareback riding, and drill team performing nightly.
- Learn to Belly Dance — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 6 p.m. Information: The Cheeky Peacocks Dance Company The details: Bring a yoga mat, a bottle of water and a friend! The class is $10.
Alleged domestic terror suspect's trial moved to October
The trial of a man suspected of planning a mass shooting at Kerrville's Walmart will happen Oct. 4 — marking the third time the trial date has changed.
Thomas Coleman Blevins, 29, of Kerrville, is in Kerr County Jail after his 2021 arrest. Blevins allegedly threatened to shoot up Walmart but was stopped by an undercover operation led by the Kerr County Sheriff's office.
The Sheriff's Office's messaging around Blevins arrest suggests he had Islamist ideals, but he also possessed white supremacist literature, according to media sources. The Southen Poverty Law Center reported that Blevins frequently shared right-wing, jihadist and white supremacist posts on social media channel Telegram.
"But right-wing extremists are opportunists who have, at times, co-opted revolutionary violence across the globe as their own, resulting in an apparent surface-level affinity for guerrilla fighters and international terrorist organizations originating in the Middle East," the SPLC wrote. "White power groups such as Atomwaffen Division and Feuerkrieg Division have used images of Osama bin Laden and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria propaganda videos, respectively, in propaganda of their own."
Most of what the Sheriff's Office shared after Blevins's arrest was white supremacist-related.
P&Z is tied in knots over short-term rentals, zoning change
If you don't want a short-term rental in your neighborhood, the key to success is to make a lot of noise about how approving a rental will lower the property values of their homes, increase traffic and bring strangers into the mix.
At least in Kerrville, that's the most straightforward way to stop a proposal — at least at the planning and zoning commission level. On Thursday, Kerrville's P&Z rejected three short-term rental conditional-use permit requests, and it's because the neighbors objected.
It wasn't the only thing P&Z rejected; they also shot down a zoning change to allow apartments near Schreiner University. In all four instances, neighbors complained about projects, and all went down to defeat. Now, this isn't the final word on the rejected projects; the property owners have a chance to appeal to the City Council, which has overturned P&Z decisions.
However, what happened at City Hall was unusual because three of the four denials were 3-3 ties — a tie defeats the proposal. Member Kevin Bernhard was absent, resulting in the split decisions. The P&Z is a recommendation body, but it has become increasingly clear that P&Z is uncomfortable deciding things when opposition shows up.
Here's how it went down:
- P&Z approved conditional-use permits for short-term rentals at 1229 Jefferson St., 1959 Arcadia Loop, 330 Guadalupe Street and 426 Meadowview Lane. The Meadowview Lane had two people supporting the approval, and the rest had no opposition.
- P&Z unanimously (6-0) rejected a short-term rental at 531 Fairway Court and split 3-3 on 410 Circle and 1701 Foothills. In all three cases, significant opposition showed up at the meeting.
- And in the final item, a zoning change request on East Main Street from medium density to multifamily faced a 3-3 vote. The vote came after three neighbors expressed their concerns about being overrun by apartments.
The themes of the day were simple for those opposed:
- Short-term rentals don't fit established neighborhoods like Riverhill and Westland. Those opposed cited Kerrville 2050 comprehensive plan, the city's planning document that aimed to protect neighborhoods.
- There was a lot of fear expressed about strangers, traffic and lowering of property values.
- There was also a philosophical question about property rights infringing on the rights of others. That position surfaced in a letter by Judge Pat Pattillo, who opposed the 1701 Foothills home from becoming a short-term rental.
Those who defended short-term rental argued:
- Renters face vetting by rental services, who faced backlash in years past for parties, etc.
- The drive for short-term rentals became an important lodging option during COVID-19, providing families a safer accommodation.
- Short-term rentals are cared for on a marketability standard, ensuring the home is rented regularly and garnering positive reviews from rental services.
So, what's next?
- The stream of short-term rentals is a vexing issue for Kerrville's civic leaders, who hope to solve it during a 6 p.m. town hall meeting on July 25 at the Dietert Center. The City Council and P&Z held two joint meetings to determine the best path to managing the boom of short-term rentals before deciding on a town hall meeting. However, this may be a tricky path for the city because of the suggestion by Pattillo — property rights infringing on the rights of others.
There's gumption in Ken O'Neal's soul
Kerrville's Kenneth O'Neal almost always has a smile on his face, and he may be one of the most positive people you will ever meet. A former accountant, O'Neal now strives to work to improve communication between people better, and he's just produced a book about just that.
"We can still do that kind of speaking and talking and working with people, but to get to the point where I want us to get so that we can solve problems, solve problems, is that when we go into a conversation, we've got to drop our bias," O'Neal explained on Tuesday's episode of The Lead Live.
"We gotta drop our prejudice," he said. "We gotta quit pointing the finger at people. We gotta quit blaming everybody. It's so easy. You know, that's the easy way out. You know, to blame somebody else."
O'Neal's book is called "Gumption: From a Transaction Life to a Transformed Life." It's available on Amazon for $15.99 and you can buy it here: Gumption
O'Neal considers author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar one of his mentors, and Ziglar's son, Tom, wrote the foreword in the book. O'Neal's work has taken him around the U.S., and his philanthropic work has taken him around the work. However, he's constantly focused on better communication.
He tells a story that he saw a Trump supporter accuse a Democrat of not wanting to wear an American flag on their lapel, and things got testy. From O'Neal, you'll never hear a whiff of politics, but what you do hear are stories about listening.
"'Well, you're calling me a liar,''' O'Neal recalls from the conversation between the opposites he encountered. "'So, I'm not going to talk to you anymore. So, they quit, but I'm saying drop your bias about that. Learn to ask good questions so you can continue the conversation and communication. We want to keep it going.
"So, when somebody says something, maybe because you can still love and care for somebody and really disagree with them because they're human. Ask a good question and be responsive. The difference between reacting is you do it just like that."
The book is full of these helpful strategies to be a more effective communicator — and friend.
A primer on the latest COVID-19 outbreak and its pesky re-infection problem
For the last few weeks, we've been telling you about the rising number of COVID-19 infections and that we can't get a firm handle on the severity of the situation locally. But this week seemed to raise some alarms (not that everyone is paying attention) about the severity of the latest variant BA.5, which makes up about 57% of all U.S. cases. Another subvariant, BA.4., accounts for about 15% of cases.
And then there's the worst side of these variants — they evade vaccines, and re-infection is high.
"The virus is continuing to evolve, as expected, and it is not surprising that these new, more transmissible subvariants are becoming more dominant around the world," said Dr. David D. Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University in New York. "Understanding how currently available vaccines and antibody treatments stand up to the new subvariants is critical to developing strategies to prevent severe disease, hospitalizations, and deaths — if not infection."
Ho said the boosters for COVID-19 may reduce the severe impacts of the disease but not enough to protect people from breakthrough infections.
"In the current environment, though, we may need to look toward developing new vaccines and treatments that can anticipate ongoing evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus," Ho said.
Scientists have found that the BA.4 and 5 variants have four spike proteins with alterations that make it viable to bypass vaccines.
The outrage machine in perspective
Right-wing media spent much of Thursday screaming about impeaching President Joe Biden concerning selling off the strategic oil reserves to Europe and Asia, including China. One hyperbolic guest on former Trump advisor Steve Bannon's show claimed 15% was going to China, while Fox's Tucker Carlson was losing it on his show about impeachable offenses. Context is everything; just like Biden's gaffe last week about telling producers to lower prices (which drew a rebuke from Amazon's Jeff Bezos), the TV/web screamers were leaving out important details.
The story that drew their ire was a shorty from Reuters that said the U.S. was exporting oil from the strategic reserves to France, Netherlands, India and China. The story says more than 470,000 barrels were exported but didn't give a precise breakdown.
Of course, why is this being done? It's Russia. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, it was exporting $6.79 billion worth of refined petroleum to the Netherlands — Russia's biggest customer. Russia also sold to France, the United States and others. Before the war, 90% of Russia's oil exports went to Europe — not anymore.
Remember, the U.S. still imports oil because we consume more than we produce. One of those importing to us was Russia — the second leading exporter in the world. Here are the links to our sources:
The dumb stuff from the Texas Republican Party's platform
As we noted on Thursday, the Texas Republican Party had its convention a few weeks ago, and it was a head-turner. The delegates, who represented less than 1% of the party, issued a 40-page platform filled with awful ideas that would probably set the state back by decades.
The convention garnered attention for Rep. Dan Crenshaw getting screamed at and called names, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn getting lustily booed for working with Democrats to come up with some sort of gun regulations and on and on. And then there was the platform. On Thursday, we gave you 15 good ideas from the convention, but today we give you some of the 15 worse ideas presented by the delegates. Are you ready? Some of you may want to look away.
Five terrible ideas
- What the TGOP proposed: We encourage the Legislature to preempt local government efforts to interfere with the State's sovereignty over business, employees, and property rights. This includes but is not limited to burdensome regulations on short-term rentals, bags, sick leave, trees, and employee criminal screening. We support preemption of city ordinances that dictate sick leave policies to private businesses. This excludes the handling of emergency orders.
- Why it's terrible: We write this after covering several meetings about short-term rentals, and it's pretty clear that even Republicans are frustrated with this. The Texas Legislature consistently looks to undermine the power of cities, especially the big ones controlled by Democrats, but rolling back regulatory efforts in communities is a potentially lethal idea. Essentially this fantasizes about communities void of regulatory oversight, and we don't think that will fly.
- What the TGOP proposed: We call on our Congressional Delegation to push for reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to limit the ability of online social media platforms to censor the speech of citizens in the new digital town square, which they currently control. We support Texas legislative efforts such as House Bill 20 that afford Texas residents the power to sue Big Tech Companies for targeting and censorship.
- Why it's terrible: This opens a huge can of worms, and we argue that it violates the First Amendment that government would dictate to private businesses what they can and can't do. It's a knee-jerk response to former President Trump getting kicked off Twitter and Facebook. The digital town square isn't the platform; it's the digital space. If you don't like their policies, go somewhere else.
- What the TGOP proposed: The Texas Legislature should pass legislation prohibiting political subdivisions of Texas and state agencies from accepting federal funds violating Texas law.
- Why it's terrible: We suspect these guys want to do a lot of nullification on federal laws they don't like. There aren't many examples here — outside of the paranoid fear by the far right about the government telling people to get the COVID-19 vaccine or wearing a mask.
- What the TGOP proposed: We demand the State Legislature pass a law prohibiting the teaching of sex education, sexual health, or sexual choice or identity in any public school in any grade whatsoever or disseminating or permitting the dissemination by any party of any material regarding the same. All school districts, individual schools, or charter schools are prohibited from contracting with or making any payment to any third party for material concerning any of the above topics. Until this prohibition goes into effect, sexual education shall only utilize sexual risk avoidance programs and promote abstinence outside of marriage. Before a student may be provided with human sexuality or family planning instruction, the district must obtain the written consent of the student's parent or guardian [Opt-In status].
- Why it's terrible: There's an argument that years of sex education have led to a reduction in the sexual activity of teenagers. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control released its study on teen sexuality and found a continual decline in activity dating back to 1988. The CDC study found that 42% of girls 15-19 had sexual intercourse, while 36% of boys had sex. The CDC found that Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country — 22 births for every 1,000 girls aged 15-19.
- What the TGOP proposed: Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin, and we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. No one should be granted special legal status based on their LGBTQ+ identification.
- Why it's terrible: It's a step back for the LGBTQ+ community, and Texas is better than that. It's also discriminatory.
Five dumb ones that would hurt
- What the TGOP proposed: We call for the permanent end of the H-1B Foreign Worker Visa program in the interest of protecting American jobs, classified technology, and national security.
- Why it's dumb: We once heard a story about how America consumes the best and the brightest to innovate, lead and build a better world. Is it perfect? No. However, this dumb nativist idea opposes what it proposes — it makes America weaker.
- What the TGOP proposed: Pursuant to Article 1, Section 1, of the Texas Constitution, the federal government has impaired our right of local self-government. Therefore, federally mandated legislation that infringes upon the 10th Amendment rights of Texas should be ignored, opposed, refused, and nullified. Texas retains the right to secede from the United States, and the Texas Legislature should be called upon to pass a referendum consistent thereto.
- Why it's dumb: It's illegal and unAmerican.
- What the TGOP proposed: We urge the Texas Legislature to amend the Texas Election Code to require bond issues be approved by a 2/3 majority of those voting and only if 20% of all registered voters in the district cast ballots. Taxpayer standing must be established to allow taxpayers to hold government entities accountable.
- Why it's dumb: This is full 1970s California and Prop. 13. Don't California our Texas. However, this carries the extra caveat of requiring at least 20% of voters to pass it — which means rare passage. In our view, Texas has massive infrastructure needs — just look at what we're dealing with in Kerr County. The bonds that passed in the last election were needs-based. What we're facing here is catching up on Texas' growth.
- What the TGOP proposed: We support abolishing the system of tenure in academia and advocate replacing it with a merit-based system for teacher retention.
- Why it's dumb: Educators should be able to work without the external pressures of bias and political pressure from liberals, conservatives and whoever proposed this dumb idea.
- What the TGOP proposed: We support allowing homeschool and private school students to compete as individuals in UIL academic competitions and be eligible for associated scholarships.
- Why it's dumb: OK, how is this fair? Who determines eligibility? So, the homeschool kid gets an A from mom and dad, while the high school kid has to slug it out in an Advanced Placement class. Sorry, if you want your kids to play sports — send them to a private or public school.
Five to run for the hills ideas
- What the TGOP proposed: Like Hillsdale College, we agree that state universities "should value the merit of each unique individual, rather than succumbing to the discriminatory trend of so-called social justice and multicultural diversity, which judges individuals not as individuals, but as members of a group which pits one group against other competing groups in divisive power struggles."
- Why you should run away: The first problem is Hillsdale College, which directly injects political bias into the discussion. The small conservative liberal arts college is known for not taking federal dollars because of regulatory obligations in accepting that money. It's also clear that we are a multicultural society, and this seems to ignore that reality — especially here in Texas.
- What the TGOP proposed: We urge the Legislature to rescind unilateral no-fault divorce laws and support covenant marriage and to pass legislation extending the period of time in which a divorce may occur to six months after the date of filing for divorce.
- Why you should run away: Nobody wants to get divorced, but why make it more painful and egregious? That was one of the main reasons for implementing non-fault divorce in the first place.
- What the TGOP proposed: We believe the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, overturning the Texas law prohibiting same-sex marriage in Texas, has no basis in the Constitution and should be nullified.
- Why you should run away: These guys spent a lot of time attacking the LGBTQ+ community and spent zero time thinking about the contributions this community makes to Texas every day.
- What the TGOP proposed: We urge the Texas Legislature to pass bill in its next session requiring a referendum in the 2023 general election for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.
- Why you should run away: It's illegal and ridiculous. And dumb.
- What the TGOP proposed: We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age. We oppose any identification of citizens by race, origin, creed, sexuality, or lifestyle choices, and oppose use of any such identification for purposes of creating voting districts. We urge that the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.
- Why you should run away: This means gerrymandering to the extreme if you're the political party in power.