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The Lead May 25, 2022: We're all with Uvalde today

After a gunman kills 19 children at a Uvalde elementary school, the world feels a little bit different today.

It all seems so routine.

An armed assailant walks into a school, his aim clear — to kill as many people as possible. It's almost a step and repeat.

That step and repeat played out at an elementary school in Uvalde on Tuesday. The shooter, an 18-year-old man, walked into Robb Elementary School — a place of learning for more than 500 second, third and fourth graders — and opened fire with a handgun, possibly a rifle. By the time he left, 19 children were dead. Two adults were dead, including a teacher.

People mourn outside of the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

"My heart is broken today," said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent, announcing that he canceled school activities until further notice. "We're a small community, and we're going to need your prayers to get through this."

It was an incomprehensible day. One that touched everyone, including those in Kerr County, where fundraising efforts were underway, and the Kerrville Fire Department sent an ambulance to help with the response.

"That's an immediate response," Kerrville Fire Chief Eric Maloney said of the department's answer to a mutual-aid call.

The entire country seems ready to answer the call.

Investigators said the shooter walked into the school at about 11:30 a.m. and opened fire, moving between classrooms. Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter started by shooting his grandmother. She died.

The Associated Press reported that the shooter was wearing body armor and was likely shot and killed by law enforcement. Citing an anonymous law enforcement source, the AP said a Border Patrol officer was nearby and engaged the suspect, killing him.

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo said the shooter acted alone.

Law enforcement work the scene after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School where 19 people, including 18 children, were killed on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. The suspected gunman, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was reportedly killed by law enforcement. (Photo by Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his outrage and sorrow.

"Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde," Abbott said. "Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School. I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal."

President Joe Biden ordered flags across the nation to be lowered to half-mast and attacked the gun lobby.

"As a nation we have to ask, when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name are we going to do what has to be done?" Biden asked. "Why are are willing to live with this carnage?"

The Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country, which serves 10 counties, including Uvalde, has established a fund for people to donate to support the community of Uvalde.

Community Foundation President Austin Dickson said the foundation started the fund on Tuesday afternoon to establish the "Uvalde Strong" fund.

Donations can be made to:

"The Uvalde Strong Fund to support victims, their families, and others affected by the mass shooting incident," Dickson said.

Other news from around Kerr County

Paces wins runoff for Pct. 2 commissioner

Rich Paces, the retired oil and gas executive, swung the votes necessary to beat Sonya Hooten in the Republican runoff for the Kerr County Commissioners' Court Pct. 2 seat.

Paces, a deeply conservative Republican, improved his position in the runoff by about 300 votes — to defeat Hooten by 15% points. Considering there are no other party challengers, Paces will likely win the seat to succeed Beck Gibson, appointed to the court when Tom Moser resigned last year.

Paces ran on his extensive experience in the oil and gas industry and said his international business experience would help him work to help manage growth in the precinct. Paces had the backing of Liberty in Action, the hard-right political group, but he also appealed to others outside of that element.

In other races:

  • In District 24 of the state senate, former state Sen. Pete Flores trounced Raul Reyes in a contentious battle for the Republican nomination. In Kerr County, Reyes was the top choice in the March primary, but Flores ran away from Reyes in the runoff.
  • Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton easily defeated George P. Bush for the Republican nomination.
  • Former District 24 Sen. Dawn Buckingham won the Republican nomination for the Texas Land Commission.
  • Incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian easily defeated upstart Sarah Stogner for the Republican nomination. Stogner made headlines with her racy political ads and a massive donation toward the end of the campaign.
  • In the Democratic race to face U.S. Rep. Chip Roy in the 21st Congressional District, Claudia Zapata easily won her race against Ricardo Villarreal. Zapata now faces a tough general election against Roy, who is in a gerrymandered district.

The Kerrville City Council unanimously rejects apartment complex

After nearly two hours of discussion, debate and emotion, the Kerrville City Council unanimously rejected a planned 366-unit apartment complex along Texas Highway 16 and just south of Riverhill Boulevard.

Despite the letters and speeches, the Kerrville City Council has one tool in its pocket to limit development — zoning. In this situation Tuesday night, the City Council decided the requested zoning change from residential estate homes to high-density apartments on a 36-acre parcel didn't fit.

The parcel in question is part of a more than 200-acre tract, once expected to be a 500-home development — initially planned to be constructed by D.R. Horton, the nation's largest homebuilder. However, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, that plan — laden with incentives from the city — was shuttered. In turn, a new owner came forward with the zoning changes that offered apartments surrounded by residential estates.

As with the previous development plan, residents in the Riverhill neighborhoods furiously opposed the plan. A petition drive netted 300 signatures, and residents wrote numerous letters opposing the project. The biggest concern centered around traffic, but the City Council focused on the fact it never squared with the city's 2050 comprehensive plan.

City Councilman Roman Garcia said that the apartment complex didn't fit the plan, he worried about the repeated request for changes to the 2050 plan. City Councilman Joe Herring Jr., sitting in his first meeting in 30 years, was troubled by the repeated zoning changes to the property and that it was going to exacerbate traffic on Texas 16 and Riverhill Boulevard.

If the property had high-density residential zoning originally, it might have been a different story for the City Council, which may have been obliged to approve the project.

It was also an example of a developing back-and-forth between the planning and zoning commission and the City Council. The planning and zoning commission unanimously approved the project.

And speaking of the back and forth between the CC and P&Z

Yes, we're getting into the abbreviations here, but the City Council approved six conditional-use permits for short-term rentals on Tuesday night, but not without consternation.

Two conditional-use permits issued overturned recommendations to reject them by the P&Z. However, the City Council shared many of the sentiments expressed by planning and zoning about how many short-term rentals are enough and does Kerrville have a "good enough plan" to manage their growth.

The City Council and P&Z will hold a joint meeting on June 2 to discuss the short-term rental situation.

A good explainer about the high cost of housing

Many Kerrville builders argue they can scale, but data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau demonstrates that homes aren't being built on a level to keep up with demand.

While the building is picking up, it's clear that the longtail of the 2008 recession deeply impacted the Kerr County market. The reality is that Kerr County hasn't built a lot since 1994. In that year, there were 236 permits issued, including 151 single-family homes.

Now, this data is a bit of a misnomer because there is no permitting required in the areas outside of Kerrville. However, most of the scalable projects are within the city limits.

Since 2004, Kerr County has seen less than 100 single-family homes constructed per year. Last year, 98 single-family homes received permits. The activity was an 18% improvement over 2020, and a 20% increase in valuation.

Kerrville will continue to wrestle with the home construction shortage in the months to come, but at least 2,000 homes and apartments are in the works.

Remember what we said about COVID-19?

Slowly but surely, COVID-19 is creeping its way back into our daily lives. The latest data from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates the virus is gaining steam in Texas.

Here's what it says:

  • There were 900 hospitalizations across the state for the first time since April 7. The number includes pediatric hospitalizations — holding steady at more than 50.
  • In Kerr County, where Peterson Health no longer publishes its COVID-19 data, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Peterson Regional Medical Center had four people admitted on May 12 for the first time since February.
  • Since March, Peterson had less than four people admitted in the HHS reporting per week. The data, of course, showed that the virus was slowing, but in recent days coronavirus has reared up.
  • Since July 2020, Peterson's COVID-19 hospitalizations top 1,200 people. That accounted for more than 6,900 days of treatment during that period — or about six days of hospitalization per patient.


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