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The Lead March 17, 2022: Pinch yourself Kerr County, there's plenty of politics and fun to discuss!

Irene Van Winkle will chat with us today about her argument with Pct. 1 Commissioner Harley Belew over lighting the courthouse up to show support for Ukraine.

Good morning, Kerr County!

It's Thursday! It's also St. Patrick's Day! Green beer and corned beef! Does anyone remember when McDonald's used to have minty green milkshakes for St. Patty's Day? By the way, here's how "woke" Disney taught us to catch a Leprechaun back in 1959.

When it comes to the weather, today may reach 90! Don't bet on it (that's not legal), but there's a chance.

On today's The Lead Live!

Irene Van Winkle will give us the latest update on her effort to light the Kerr County Courthouse blue and yellow in support of Ukraine. Van Winkle won the support of the three of the Kerr County Commissioner's Court members to light the building, but she ran into opposition from Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley Belew. The show starts at 9 a.m.

Belew goes on the attack

Belew saves his most vitriolic attacks for his morning radio show — specifically in the 6 a.m. hour. On Tuesday, Belew said he liked Van Winkle but then proceeded to attack her effort to light the courthouse.

"We had to discuss lighting the courthouse with the blue and yellow lights of Ukraine," Belew said. "It irritated me. This kind of virtue signaling. Well, they've done it in San Antonio, she said. They've done it in Austin. They've done it in Houston. Right there, it tells you it doesn't mean anything. It's virtue signaling."


Belew, however, saved some of his best work for later in the segment, claiming that:

  • Ukraine is a wealthy nation; they should be able to afford an air force.
  • Ukraine is a corrupt nation.
  • Ukraine has "biolabs," and that could be one of the reasons why Russia invaded — parroting conspiracy theories by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and former Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

That's a lot to unpack, but here are some facts.

  • In terms of gross domestic product, Ukraine ranks 60th in the world — well behind Russia. Heck, well behind Texas. Before the Russian invasion, the nation had the seventh-largest air force in Europe. Russian media says it has destroyed 90 Ukrainian air assets — but that number hasn't been verified.
  • There's no doubt that Ukraine has its problems when it comes to corruption, but so does Russia. A world ranking of nations based on corruption ranks Ukraine ahead of Russia.
  • Finally, the question of bio labs? There seems to be a lot of confusion here, but it seems the U.S. does fund biological research centers — like they do in Kerrville. Technically you could call the U.S. Department of Agriculture research facility in Kerrville a bio lab — or is it?

In case you missed it, here's Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speech:

Things to do to today

  • Game night — Kerrville Schreiner Park, 6-8 p.m. Information: The details: Come to the Kerrville-Schreiner Park Recreation Hall for a family-friendly competition-filled game night. Free and open to the public.
  • Live music by Jeremy McComb — Southern Sky Music Cafe, 6:30 p.m. Information:
  • Thirsty Thursday Trivia Night — Arcadia Live, 5:45 p.m. Information: The details: As always, you can have your favorite Pint & Plow Brewing Co. pizza plus two appetizers waiting for your team here at Arcadia Live the night of trivia (5:45 p.m.) by placing your order when you RSVP! Huzzah!
  • Contemporary Classics: Monologues and Scenes from the Schreiner Student Actors — Trailhead Beer Garden, Schreiner University, 7:30 p.m. Information: The details: The Spring 2022 students from THRE 2301 and 2302 (Acting One and Acting Two) present an evening of short works they workshopped in class. From Shakespeare to modern screwball comedies, some are heartbreaking, some side-splitting, but all are excellent and engaging.
  • Trivia night at The Boat — The Boat Oyster Bar and Grill, 9 p.m. Information: 830-896-3354. The details: Come and join The Boat for trivia night. Prizes, drink specials and Schreiner Alumni "Professor Sparky" to host. Bring your team.

Today's newsletter is sponsored by:

Stop by Mustang Sally's to see their inventory of furniture, clothing, jewelry, hats and fine art.

Speaking of betting

Today's first-round NCAA basketball tournament games featuring Texas teams are:

  • No. 16 Norfolk State vs. No. 1 Baylor, 1:30 p.m.
  • No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 1 Kansas, 8:45 p.m.

On Friday, these are the matchups (you're not supposed to bet on):

  • No. 14 Montana State vs. No. 3 Texas Tech, 12:45 p.m.
  • No. 12 UAB vs. No. 5 Houston, 8:20 p.m.
  • No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. No. 6 Texas, 3:30 p.m.
  • No. 9 Texas Christian vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, 8:57 p.m.

Jobs, jobs and jobs, but who is going to fill them?

We stopped by the job fair at Schreiner University on Wednesday, but in the 40 minutes we were there, we saw plenty of employers — not a lot of applicants.

The fair ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and there were plenty of jobs to be filled, especially at Kerr County's summer camps. However, there were other big-time employers there, including the Austin Fire Department, Peterson Health, the city of Kerrville, the Texas Comptrollers Office and the Hill Country Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Centers.

"There is a lot of opportunity," said Schreiner's David Reast, who organized the fair and who opened it to the general public. "The response has been really fantastic. As the day wears on, students will be coming up here, but we haven't had as many people from the general public as we hoped."

There seemed to be competing theories about why there is such a shortage of workers — ranging from it is President Joe Biden's fault to pay issues to worker dissatisfaction with part-time hours. The reality is more complex.

Whataburger's Roxanna Molina, who oversees the franchise restaurants in Kerrville and Ingram, said the company is filling jobs but has to work to retain those workers. The Texas fast-food institution is prepping to open a second restaurant — just down the street from Schreiner. Whataburger's corporate arm is opening a fourth location along Interstate 10 in the coming months.

For Molina and her management team, which includes her father, Ruben, the challenge is recruitment and retention. That's where Katelyn Barney comes in to help — she's the new office manager. With one foot inside of the restaurants, Barney is working on managing employee reviews, incentive programs, employee surveys and other retention initiatives.

Whataburger's feedback so far is that many employees don't feel heard or feel that they have a voice.

"We've solved a lot of problems through the surveys," Barney said. "The employees didn't think they were being heard."

However, the franchises hired 34 people in the last few weeks in preparation for the April 18 opening of its Memorial Highway store. Roxanne Molina said the starting wage is $11 per hour — well above the Texas minimum wage. The reality is that some workers are making a lot more, and shift supervisors can make more while also earning bonuses.

Over at JCPenney, a pair of longtime supervisors looked to fill 12 positions.

"We've had a good response today," said Lisa Jones, who has worked for the retailer for 25 years.

OK, Chip Roy may have a problem

You may have a problem voting against things like honoring police, creating a historical framework to study Japanese-American internment during World War II, or creating a national memorial to honor those killed during a mass shooting in El Paso.

And those are things Rep. Chip Roy voted against in recent months, including two Wednesday. Roy, who represents Kerr County in the 21st congressional district, made the following no votes:

  • This bill directs the Department of the Interior to establish the Japanese American World War II History Network within the National Park Service. In carrying out the network, the Interior shall review studies and reports to complement and not duplicate studies of Japanese American World War II history and Japanese American experiences during World War II, including studies related to relocation centers and confinement sites; and produce and disseminate appropriate educational materials, such as handbooks, maps, interpretive guides, or electronic information relating to Japanese American World War II history and Japanese American experiences during that war.
  • This bill designates the Healing Garden located at 6900 Delta Drive in El Paso, Texas, as the El Paso Community Healing Garden National Memorial. The memorial is for the 23 people killed in a shooting rampage at an El Paso Walmart.

When it came to taking action to stop importing oil from Russia, Roy voted no — he was just one of 17 to do so.

"I voted 'no' on the subsequent, so-called Russian oil ban bill," Roy said. "It is designed purposefully to depress American oil and gas production, will likely empower adversaries in Iran and Venezuela, is filled with loopholes, and cedes power to the Executive branch to easily waive its provisions."

Border security? Uh, Roy voted against two proposals that had overwhelming bipartisan support. They were:

  • Enhancing access to training offered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers to state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement, with particular attention to rural or remote communities, enhances domestic preparedness for and collective response to terrorism and other homeland security threats.
  • Improving an Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that patrols Arizona's Tohono Oʼodham Indian Reservation, which borders Mexico.

In both cases, Roy was in a small minority to vote against the proposals.

Want to improve cyber security? Roy voted against that too. Here's what he voted against:

  • This bill allows the Department of Homeland Security to work together with a consortium composed of nonprofit entities to develop, update, and deliver cybersecurity training in support of homeland security.

Another tough defensive outing for Schreiner softball

If Schreiner University's softball team can minimize mistakes, the Mountaineers might be in a different place in their season.

On Wednesday, the Mountaineers endured an exasperating third inning with two errors, a hit batter and four unearned runs against visiting Our Lady of the Lake in a 6-1 loss.

Takeaway that inning, things might be different for the Mountaineers, who have faced a buzzsaw schedule of late. Schreiner pitcher Bri Wodtke pitched well, striking out six and giving up six hits, but the defense and the offense couldn't hold it together.

Schreiner is now 5-17 on the season but gets a week off before returning to the road against Texas A&M-San Antonio. The Mountaineers don't return to Kerrville until April 9.

Offensively, the Mountaineers snapped a 24-2/3 inning scoreless streak, but the offense has been sparse. The Mountaineers are hitting .186 (17-for-91) in their last four games.

More stuff to do today

  • KACC Exhibits — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: Artwork from the Big Seed Youth Artist program, "Schreiner University Seniors Show" Seniors from Schreiner University display their art, "Hill Country Youth Art Exhibit" school children from all over Kerr County show their work.
  • "Art of the Plains" — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: 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.
  • Form and Function — Hill Country Arts Foundation, Ingram, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Information: The details: They feature pottery and ceramics from local artisans.

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