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The Lead May 9, 2022: We're dancing into a new week, not short of Kerrville controversies

Tuesday night's City Council features an ethics complaint against Mayor Bill Blackburn.

Good morning, Kerr County!

It was some weekend of heat, humidity and icky air quality. On Saturday, the high of 99 tied a record for May 7 — set in 1984. Sunday's record of 101, set in 1998, was in no danger of falling, with a high of 96, but it was an ugly hazy day out there. Things won't get much better this week with highs reaching into the mid-90s — or hotter. And the other bad news? Well, we've got no rain in the forecast for the next seven to 10 days. Since December of 2021, Kerr County has experienced five consecutive months with less than an inch of rain per month. May is typically one of the wettest months of the year, but that's looking unlikely at this point.

On today's The Lead Live!

In terms of local politics, we will break down the results from Saturday's election and look ahead to what's next, including the May 24 runoff election. Texas Hill Country Advisors Gilbert Paiz and Andrew Gay will give us their market updates.

From the weekend

We had some terrific dance events over the weekend, including the mother-son dance at the Hill Country Youth Event Center. We couldn't attend the Golden Girls recital at the Cailloux Theater on Friday night, but we hear good things. Here are two dance-related photo galleries from Saturday.

Also, if you missed our coverage on Schreiner's graduation, here's a look at the photos and our photo essay on the mortarboards of the ceremony.

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Assessing Saturday's results

The election is over — at least for the municipal side — and there are some takeaways from the results. In Ingram, low turnout continues to make for incredibly tight races. In Kerrville, familiarity and longevity proved to be selling points for Kerrville City Council seats.

Like the 2020 Kerrville election, candidates who are longtime residents seem to carry the most clout — especially if they're actively engaged in civic affairs. The slate of Judy Eychner for mayor and Brenda Hughes and Joe Herring for City Council was formidable, but that proved to be true on election day.

Tossing out the 2020 election results, held concurrently with a significant national election and massive turnout, Joe Herring Jr. earned the third most votes of any City Council candidate in recent history in a contested race. Herring's 2,265 votes were the most in the field. Hughes was right behind with 2,196. Eychner had 2,133 votes.

When it comes to big wins, Eychner has now won all three of her campaigns with at least 60% of the vote and has the most votes in a contested race in the last five years.

The trio and a loud slate of challengers helped bolster turnout compared to 2021. But it looks like the biggest attraction for voters was Kerrville's Proposition A — the $45 million general obligation bond for the new public safety building — because it drew 3,600 voters, which was the most of any civic race.

There were 27 more voters in the Prop. A race than in the race between Herring and Chapman-Hanna. In the race between Hughes and Monroe, the gap was 109. The mayoral race gap was 51 against Prop A. That suggests a small number of people who just voted for or against Prop A. It also means voters cast their ballots for Eychner, Hughes and Herring, all Prop. A backers, but didn't vote in favor of the proposition.

A sendoff with a discussion of ethics

In his final meeting, Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn faces a discussion about his ethics.

If Kerrville City Councilwoman Kim Clarkson has her way, Mayor Bill Blackburn's final meeting should be a proper sendoff after four years of service, but persistent city critic and gadfly George Baroody and Councilman Roman Garcia have another idea.

The verbose and nitpicky Baroody got Garcia to place an ethics discussion on the agenda in the wake of an April 12 exchange between Baroody and Blackburn.

Baroody is upset that Blackburn called him a liar during a public forum, where the mayor and City Council rarely engage the public. If it's not on the agenda, the mayor is not supposed to respond, but Blackburn couldn't hold back on that night.

At the heart of the discussion is Baroody's opinion that the May 7 municipal election was not legal — despite rulings from the Texas Secretary of State and the Attorney General that field an opposite view. In 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott postponed municipal elections because of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this reality, Baroody has proceeded to tax the City Council with comments about the legality of the election.

In a previous meeting, Baroody said he had a letter from the Secretary of State's office suggesting the city had to meet its charter requirements by fulfilling two-year terms of office for elected officials. The reality is that the Secretary of State said this:

"Postponing an election is not a permanent move," the Secretary of State's office told the city. "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."

However, Baroody is now complaining that Blackburn violated the city's ethics policy.

"Besides the fact the Mayor was engaging in conversation on a topic not properly posted on the agenda, clearly outside the boundaries of the Open Meetings Act, his direct question to me was actually not a question but an attempt to falsely claim I was a liar," Baroody wrote in a letter to City Secretary Shelley McElhannon and the rest of the City Council. "I don't think it would be appropriate to call any citizen out as a liar, even if factually correct, however to bear false witness on a citizen from a sitting Mayor, from the dais, would be especially improper.

People can disagree and have rational debate over any number of issues, however, when the leaders of our community resort to this kind of character assassination, I believe someone should stand up, and not only the person being wronged."

City Councilmembers Judy Eychner, Brenda Hughes and Kim Clarkson, declined to place the item on the agenda. However, Garcia, a political ally of Baroody, decided to step up and request its placement on the Tuesday night agenda.

"I hope one of my fellow colleagues recognizes the responsibility we each have to assure that our Ethics Policy and the standards set forth are met and upheld and takes it upon him/herself to sponsor this agenda item," Garcia wrote to McElhanon.

The issue of the May election has, at times, dominated the council's discussion, with Baroody and Garcia repeatedly arguing the point. City Council candidate Robin Monroe filed a suit against the city in district court over the issue.

The winners and losers from Saturday's election

The winners

  • Kerrville's Public Safety employees were the big winners, with voters approving a $45 million bond to pay for a new building. The building is long overdue, but the vote showed the majority of people back law enforcement and public safety by giving them a decent place to work.
  • Ingram Independent School District students. With a $25 million bond passing, Ingram is in a position to enhance its offerings, especially in vocational arts. The district, which is at capacity, has plans to expand its band program, add a new gym, and add new workshops and new classroom wings. It's a significant investment in public education.
  • Pragmatists. Those who can see two sides of the discussion and make hard decisions — not dripping in partisan rhetoric — were the winners here. While national politics are at a standstill thanks to the partisan divide, Kerr County voters clearly said they want clear-headed decision making — devoid of the vitriol we see in Washington, D.C.

The losers

  • Liberty In Action, a right-wing group, backed Brent Bates, Katy Chapman-Hanna and Robin Monroe for the Kerrville City Council, along with Zach Sumerall for the Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees — all lost. Liberty Action also led a no-vote campaign against Prop. A, and that failed. There was an apparent attempt to lump KISD trustee candidate Samantha Munoz into the group, but she told them to pound sand. Munoz lost to Michael Tackett for District 7 by just 15 votes.
  • The taxpayers of Kerrville. This might seem like a strange thing to say, but the taxpayers took it on the chin from both the city's inability to appropriately communicate its intentions with the public safety building and "Let Us Vote," or whatever it morphed into, ill-advisedly stopping the issuance of certificates of obligation in 2021 to get the project started. The city's intent is speculation at best — our best guess was floating a CO to buy the former Hal Peterson Middle School campus, but we'll never know. "Let Us Vote" gummed up the whole thing with heavy doses of misinformation and leveraged its QAnon-fogged supporters to gather enough signatures to sign a petition to stop the COs. For those who don't remember, the COs are credit instruments that the City Council can issue on its own. If they had been able to issue them last year, the interest rates would have been lower, and the plans may have been more straightforward. So, now the taxpayers will have to pay more thanks to the two-pronged failure of civic miscommunication and conspiratorial fantasy.

The best of the weekend from Instagram!


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I got a hammock for Mothers Day


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Mom Day! May you all be loved and treasured for the things done day in + day out! #HappyMothersDay2022


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Can’t believe I get to be their mama. Indescribable.


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