Good morning, Kerr County
Who is ready to get out there and vote? Today is the day — primarily for Republicans in Kerr County — to cast their decisions about who they want to see as governor, attorney general and a slew of other races. We'd like to cast our vote for this elegant weather this week. Today's high will be 70, with an overnight low of 38. We should see similar conditions through the weekend.
On today's The Lead Live
Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brad Barnett will discuss Thursday's Hill Country Economic Summit. It's a check-up on the regional economy, and we'll get Barnett's take on what he sees here in Kerr County. Some of our economic summit questions for Barnett will be around employment, wages and affordable housing. Join us at 9 a.m.
Put this down on your schedule
"Art of the Plains"
Museum of Western Art
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This artistic celebration features realistic and representational artworks in traditional media depicting the American Great Plains region, including its landscape, wildlife, people, and way of life in historical or modern times.
Arcadia Live is ready to party on Tuesday. The downtown theater and event space hold its first Mardi Gras celebration, with a $25 blowout event. There's live jazz music by Jon Blondell Quintet, and partake in the raffle contest to be crowned Mardi Gras King or Queen! Nominate a friend (or yourself!) for $25, and vote using raffle tickets sold for $5, $10, $15, $20, $25 and $100 — each dollar counts for one vote. We'll tally the votes before the end of this unforgettable night!
Live music by Mike Kasberg Band
Pier 27 River Lounge
The election is here
For Precinct 2 Commissioner's Court candidates Sonya Hooten, Jack Pratt, Stan Kubenka and Rich Paces, the day is finally here as Republicans head to the polls to cast their votes in the primary.
The long hard battle to replace Beck Gibson, who was appointed to replace Tom Moser, as the Pct. 2 commissioner has tested all four candidates. What we will watch today is to see if a candidate can win an outright 50% majority to advance to the general election in November. We suspect that won't be the case, and we'll see a runoff between the top two finishers on May 24.
We will also watch the three-way Republican battle for Senate District 24 between Raul Reyes, Peter Flores and Lamar Lewis. The incumbent in House District 53, Andrew Murr, faces a fight against Wesley Virdell, who argues he's the more authentic Texan.
Statewide this is a closely watched primary with plenty of drama ahead of the 2022 mid-term elections in November. Texas' heavily gerrymandered districts should allow the Republicans to hold onto power, if not gain ground in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, the race for governor will be hugely expensive, with Republican incumbent Greg Abbott expected to face Democrat Beto O'Rourke in November.
Will Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton survive a primary challenge?
The most clearly-watched race is the four-way Republican battle for Attorney General with incumbent (and indicted) Ken Paxton facing Eva Guzman, George P. Bush and Rep. Louie Gohmert in the Republican primary. While Paxton has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, all three challengers argue they are the heirs to Trump's legacy.
The turnout for this election, something we've already seen here in Kerr County, is expected to be low. Here's Texas Tribune columnist Ross Ramsey's take on the turnout: https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/25/texas-election-turnout/
Lucy Wilke gets her investigator
After plenty of questions and back-and-forth with the Kerr County Commissioner's Court, 216th District Attorney Lucy Wilke will be able to hire an investigator at the same rate as what the previous investigator earned. All of this has been a confusing issue as the county wrestled with its compensation grades and steps.
Wilke had budgeted $60,611 to pay for a veteran investigator — one with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience. However, it initially looked like the county only wanted to pay an entry-level salary for the position — a little more than $50,000 per year. Wilke made it clear she wanted to pay the new investigator at the same level — not more or less.
On Feb. 14, the court seemed content to let the issue die, but they relented and agreed to Wilke's conditions on Monday.
A bridge too small
The lasting impact of last month's winter storm reared its head Monday, with the latest surprise being a heavily damaged bridge thanks to truck traffic.
Kerr County Engineer Charlie Hastings told the Kerr County Commissioners Court that a small bridge on Cypress Creek Road — near the Kendall and Kerr county lines — had been damaged by semi-trucks using it as a bypass to get off Interstate 10.
The "bridge" is more of a low-water crossing between Old Cypress Creek Road and North Creek Road, just west of Comfort. Running parallel to I-10, truckers could exit at FM 1341 and head back east to get back to I-10, but big rigs were not in the roadway's design.
"Our understanding from the locals who live there is that thousands of 18-wheelers used that low-water crossing," Hastings told the commissioners. "We're confident that's why we're having catastrophic failure of that bridge deck.
The narrow road was closed on Monday afternoon, and Kerr County Bridge and Road crews removed parts of the damaged bridge.
"We were able to watch the bridge deck and put loads on it to see movement," Hastings said. "Bridges aren't supposed to move — at all."
Kerr County work crews demolished part of the roadway on Monday morning.
Hastings said it would take three to four months to replace the bridge. Hastings said he's working to refine an engineering plan for the bridge, which will cost an estimated $50,000 to repair.
In other commissioner's court business:
- Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly tasked Pct. 4 Constable Brad Rider to organize a meeting with the city of Ingram, with the plan to improve communication between the city and county.
- Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha said his office would most likely follow the city of Kerrville's lead and upgrade its emergency radio equipment through the Lower Colorado River Authority and Motorola. Kerrville is moving to a new system, expected to cost nearly $3 million, and the county wants to have the same plan to maximize communications between multiple agencies. Leitha does not have a pricing structure but told the court he would bring one as a future agenda item. The project could cost more than $5 million.
Rescheduled zoning and planning
The Kerrville Planning and Zoning meets Thursday after having its February meeting canceled, thanks to our latest round of questionable weather. The 4:30 p.m. meeting has a reasonably light agenda, but Comanche Trace's ongoing expansion will garner discussion.
Catching up with the Economic Improvement Corporation
Judging the regional economy
During the Feb. 21 Economic Improvement Corporation meeting, Kerr Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gil Salinas provided some nuggets about the regional employment situation. Last month Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Bryan Daniel visited Kerrville and Ingram, and provided these assessments:
- Daniels, according to Salinas, said Texas is not experiencing the great resignation, as some have dubbed the pandemic-fueled job market, but the "great re-evaluation."
- Salinas said Texas' growth — in terms of population and growth — led people to re-evaluate their career priorities. In turn, many of those people moved toward improving education or certifications to make them more hireable.
- Salinas said that the re-evaluation placed pressure on service-oriented jobs — like fast food, hotels, etc. Those jobs were now without a labor force, which resulted in higher wages.
- Salinas described this as an upscaling of the workforce into middle-level jobs and out of the service sector. Salinas added that the service sector would continue to be strained in the coming months.
The power of the sports complex
For years there have been whispers about whether or not Kerrville's sports complex is viable. Parks and Recreation Director Ashlea Boyle blew that assumption away by presenting the park's impact to the Economic Improvement Corp. Boyle said the baseball, softball and soccer fields have proven to be a key economic driver, backed up from data by the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau that showed more than 150,000 trips to the baseball fields from 2018 through 2022. That data comes from cell phone pings.
In 2020, as the pandemic closed most of the nation, Kerrville's sports complex was one of the few open for business — attracting more than 900 teams here, including those with top collegiate and Major League Baseball prospects.
As the nation re-opened, that number fell to more than 500 tournament teams — down from 2018 and 2019. However, the expectation is that D-Bat, which controls the complex's concession, attracts at least 400 teams — and that has consistently been met.
But, but … and but on the cell phone data
When it comes to marketing data, we're the first to admit that we're frequently troubled by the broad generalities used in public meetings, especially when it comes to technology behavior. A common one is just like Boyle described as cell phone use, but how reliable is it? Our ruling? It's not.
Here's the problem: Apple. Yes, the iPhone significantly changed its privacy settings that inhibit accurate tracking of apps and other services.
"At Apple, we've always believed that you should be in control of your data — what you do with it and who you share it with should be up to you," Apple CEO Tim Cook said on April 21. "App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5 gives you the choice to share the data that's being collected about you across apps and websites."
Now, suppose you had a free and ultra-wideband wireless internet network at key locations in Kerrville. In that case, you might be able to get some real interesting data — that, however, seems unlikely.
The issue has irritated many of Apple's partners — primarily Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. And it's likely not going to get easier for third-party marketers to demonstrate effective reach and attendance.