The Lead March 23, 2022: Kerrville faces lawsuit over election date; a decidedly dry weather outlook for the Hill Country

Robin Monroe says Kerrville's city election needs to be moved to November.

Good morning, Kerr County!

Oh, what a beautiful morning. Ok, this week will be great if you like warm weather, and next week will be even better. Next Tuesday, we could see our first 90-degree day.

On today's The Lead Live!

Kerrville artist George Waring is stopping by to discuss his art projects and connecting youth to art. We'll also chat with Kristin Hedger of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing. Our regular Wednesday co-host, the great and powerful Rachel Fitch, is on an adventure searching for new and mysterious merchandise to bring to Kerrville! She will return next week.

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Things to do today!

  • College tennis — Schreiner University, 2 p.m. The details: The Schreiner men and women will look to snap three-match losing streaks against visiting Ozarks.
  • Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1-3 p.m. Information: The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any wilder in Kerrville politics

Robin Monroe is suing the city of Kerrville over its election date.


Kerrville now has two people running for the City Council engaged in litigation against the city.

On Tuesday, Place 4 City Council Candidate Robin Monroe suggested she didn't know the municipal election was in May, filed a lawsuit against the city in 216th District Court to stop the election and move it to November. Mayoral candidate Brent Bates is suing the city in federal court over the city's stop-work order on his Water Street office building.

Monroe said she must undergo knee replacement surgery in April and that she can't reasonably campaign before the May 7 election, according to her filing.

What makes her court case curious, though, is this:

"Contemporaneously with her filing, Plaintiff discovered that Kerrville City Charter Section 2.03 -Term of Office," the document says.

Monroe has been a regular at City Council meetings for months, often speaking about the city's public safety building, but apparently missed the numerous conversations about the election schedule.

Monroe is competing against incumbent Brenda Hughes for the seat on the City Council — the only candidate directly impacted by Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order to delay 2020 municipal elections.

The city charter mandates two-year terms for those duly elected officials — Hughes' first term is 18 months. The battle over the election date is championed by former City Councilman George Baroody and Place 1 City Councilman Roman Garcia. The issue is contentious and led to a war of words between Garcia and City Attorney Mike Hayes, who repeatedly maintains the city is not violating the charter or state law because of the actions by Abbott during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, it created uncertainty about the safety of mass gatherings. Abbott issued an executive order that superseded a state law about the date of municipal elections — that for many Texas cities is the first Saturday in May.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered the city of Round Rock to hold its election in November 2020 after the city said it couldn't because it was violating its charter. Round Rock wanted to delay the election to 2021, but Paxton's point was it would give those officeholders an unelected year in office.

The Texas Secretary of State's office also weighed in on the matter.

"Postponing an election is not a permanent move,'' the Secretary of State's office wrote. "The governor's proclamation has the effect of postponing an election, but it is not a permanent move. The result is that [a city's] current officeholders will be holdovers until the next election occurs. Your newly-elected officeholders in November will have a shorter term. Their next election will return back to the May date."

If the election is in November, Mayor Bill Blackburn, who is not seeking another term, and Place 3 City Councilwoman Judy Eychner, who is running for mayor, would have served more than two years — meaning the final six months would have been unelected.

Monroe's suit, of course, doesn't consider Abbott's decision to postpone the elections. Instead, Borgelt argues solely for injunctive relief based on the city charter, which outlines the terms of office for the City Council and Mayor.

In her filing, Monroe asks for the city to cover the litigation costs, including appeals to the Texas Supreme Court.

"Request is made for all costs and reasonable and necessary attorney's -fees incurred by Plaintiff herein, including all fees necessary in the event of an appeal of this cause to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Texas, as the Court deems equitable and just," the filing said.

The City Council in action

In the face of a lawsuit against its election, the Kerrville City Council met on Tuesday night and held a tidy and polite meeting — a departure from recent sessions.

Mayor Bill Blackburn noted the city's announcement that it was in a contract to purchase 7.1 acres at the Clearwater Paseo and Rio Monte Drive to become the home of a proposed public safety building. Blackburn encouraged people to see the property directly across the street from the Kerr County Sheriff's office.

The City Council unanimously approved:

  • A resolution that would adopt a design-build method of construction that could provide efficiencies.
  • An agreement with the non-profit Heart of the Hills Heritage Center to manage the Water Street museum. The group has raised more than $1 million as part of a deal with the city. The Friends of the Library raised another $250,000. The H.E. Butt Foundation and H.E.B provided another $1 million in funding.
  • The first reading on an ordinance on how the city will manage fires, fire department access at recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds. The standards are set by the recently adopted 2018 National Fire Protection Association guidelines.
  • The first reading on an ordinance requiring new subdivisions to have access points that won't be impacted by 10- and 25-year floods would improve first responders' access,

The weather looks ominous, very ominous

Richard McAlister makes it clear when he gives his weather forecast — he doesn't care about your politics. What he cares about is how the weather may impact the personal safety of millions of Americans.

So, on Tuesday in the Riverside Nature Center's conference room, McAlister laid out a stark weather forecast covering the rest of 2022 — hot, dry and dangerous.

What was supposed to be a conversation about flash floods turned into a drought forecast for the ages. While based in Kerrville, McAlister serves as a Red Cross spokesperson for Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, but he also is a meteorologist for the relief organization.

McAlister was joined by Tara Bushnoe, with the Upper Guadalupe River Authority, who provided context to the history of flooding in Kerr County. Still, in terms of severity, it was McAlister's long-term forecast that provided the most eye-opening moments.

"Nearly all of the models show drought in increasing magnitude," McAlister said. "We could be doing this for five years."

That's right — five years.

And this part of the presentation came after not-so-sunny conversations about hurricanes and tornadoes — also expected to be elevated. It's not that McAlister is a doom-and-gloom guy — he's an accomplished cyclist and author — but he's also looking at the science.

A significant component of his job is to forecast so that the Red Cross can position itself ahead of emergencies. On Tuesday night, McAlister was probably dealing with the aftermath of a tornado that ravaged New Orleans.

"The storms that his us on Monday, we've been preparing for eight days," McAlister said.

However, the magnitude of drought — already creating havoc in the Western United States — seemed to be where he focused much of his attention.

"Red-flag warnings were something that was rare," McAlister said when responding to a question about the immense surge of the high-wind, low humidity conditions that lead to elevated fire danger. "Now we're seeing them pop up more and more."

McAlister's concern isn't his alone; the Texas A&M Forest Service echoes those predictions, issuing an extreme fire danger warning for most of west Texas, including Western Kerr County, which has a burn ban in effect.

McAlister said fire conditions are extreme in areas not prone to large wildland fires — like areas near Big Bend National Park. Speaking more broadly for the entirety of the country, McAlister said the extreme fire danger is only forecast through June — not even close to the worst summer and fall conditions.

As far as breaking the drought, McAlister said that not even a hurricane that made its way inland could replenish the water losses occurring.

Week two of the Kerrville Citizens Police Academy

Lt. Jonathan Cline and Sgt. Jonathan Lamb during the Kerrville Citizens Police Academy.

As we noted last week, The Lead is participating in the Citizens Police Academy, a longstanding community relations effort by the department to provide a behind-the-scenes look at police operations. Led by Sgt. Jack Lamb, the department's public information officer, the nine-week course has about 20 participants — of all ages.

On Tuesday night, the class learned about the investigation unit, led by Lt. Jonathan Cline, and the patrol division, led by Lt. Martin Morris.

Cline, a 17-year veteran of the department, provided plenty of context about the scope of his duties leading the department's investigative unit, which is currently working 70 cases. However, here's a sample of some of their recent work:

  • Keeping tabs on 49 registered sex offenders in the community.
  • The unit handled 569 investigations in 2020, but that number fell to 421 in 2021.
  • The two oldest cases for the department are unsolved murders of women in 1974 and 1977.

Investigators are expected to close cases in two months.

Cline also quizzed the class about some preconceptions about investigations — often formed through the countless police procedurals available on television. Cline noted that it takes as long as a year to return DNA results, unlike fast turnarounds in episodic TV.

Lt. Martin Morris discusses the Kerrville Police Department's patrol division.

Morris, a 21-year veteran, provided the patrol division and some of his changes since taking over. The most significant change is a consistent rotation of shifts that helps foster a better understanding of the community.

Morris said he spent his first 10 years on the job working nights and weekends. It led to burnout and, admittedly, some grouchy behavior. As the division commander, Morris put into service a shift strategy that focuses on the department's busiest dayparts.

Every two months, the sergeant and four officers teams move to one of the department's three shifts. In turn, Morris said the officers better understand the city and the types of incidents they deal with at different times during the day. It's also more conducive to a healthier work-life balance.

Hardin-Simmons sinks the Mountaineers

Schreiner University's Will Vogt smacks a three-run home run in the fourth inning against Hardin Simmons.

When the wind is blowing out at Bob Henry Field at Schreiner University, it's best not to play poor defense, and that's exactly what the Mountaineers did on Tuesday afternoon.

Leading 8-6 heading into the ninth inning, the Mountaineers gave up five runs and lost 12-8 to visiting Hardin-Simmons in a non-conference game.

The Cowboys smacked two home runs in the ninth, and an error and a hit batter led to another run — unearned. It spoiled what appeared to be a Schreiner rout early on.

The Mountaineers jumped out to an 8-1 lead through the first six innings, powered by a Tyler Juarez home run in the first inning and a massive fourth-inning blast by Will Vogt that scored three runs. It was the first time in six games the Mountaineers homered.

However, the Mountaineers' pitching couldn't hold, and it could have been worse. Hardin Simmons, which beat Schreiner 9-2 earlier in the month, left 14 runners stranded, including the bases loaded in the ninth.

The defense faltered for the Mountaineers with five errors — a season-tying performance for fielding. This season, Schreiner has committed 42 errors and has two errors or more in six consecutive games.

Juarez had a monster game with the homer, a pair of doubles, two runs batted in and two runs scored. Vogt finished 3-for-4 and he raised his batting average to .371.

Schreiner (9-9) returns to action Saturday at Dallas University in a three-game Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference series.

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