Good morning, Kerr County!
Today's theme is about booking stuff! And we can book sunny and mild — again. While it looks like the Kerrville Chalk Festival is free from rain, there's a developing chance for rain Sunday afternoon, and into next week, the National Weather Service said. So, we can expect some decidedly cool temperatures next week.
On today's The Lead Live!
We've got an extended show today with Fitch Estate Sales owner Rachel Fitch visiting about her latest business moves. Of course, when we get together with Fitch it's hard to peg where the show will land. #squirrel. At 10 a.m., U.S. congressional candidate Claudia Zapata will stop by to tell us about her campaign to unseat incumbent Rep. Chip Roy, who represents the Texas 21st Congressional District in Washington, D.C.
It's Chalk Festival week — four days to go!
Kerrville City Hall's Peterson Plaza transforms into a temporary outdoor gallery of art as the sidewalks transform into colorful street paintings. Many artists enjoy interacting with people attending the Kerrville Chalk Festival, and others prefer to work uninterrupted as onlookers observe their progress. The completion of extensive and detailed chalk art may take the entire weekend.
The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday and runs until 5 p.m. The festival concludes on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This year there will be a large 7×14 foot patriotic-themed street painting created by Kelly Faltemayer and Russ Gobel, of Houston, TX. Other guest artists will be Ever Galvez, and Jennifer Ripassa, and Lysa Ashley all from Los Angeles, Calif.; Jessi Queen and Zach Herdon, both from Atlanta, Ga.; Joel Yau, of San Francisco, Calif.; Henry Darnell and Carrie Dziabczenko both from Dallas; Kayla Kilmartin of Corpus Christi; Julie Mangum of Llano; Tish Miller of Kerrville as well as Hung Pham and Marcos Hernandez from Houston.
Local professional artists Marty Garcia, Vivian Gray, Aurora Joleen, Vicki Keese, Stephanie Keller, and Liz Painter are also participating this year. Groups from Peterson Middle School, Tivy High School, Ingram Tom Moore High School, Our Lady of the Hills College Prep, The Hunt School, Fredericksburg High School and the Hill Country Youth Ranch will all be chalking squares.
There is no admission charge and the festival will have many free activities for children, free guided tours of the adjacent Schreiner Mansion, and six established food truck vendors. The Kerr Arts and Cultural Center is the 2022 recipient of the festival's donations.
Things to do today!
- Howard Payne at Schreiner University, 6 p.m.
- Welcome Home Festival — Quiet Valley Ranch, Kerrville Folk Festival. Information: https://kerrvillefolkfestival.ticketspice.com/welcome-home-fest-2022 Lineup: 8 p.m. — Michael Prysock; 9 p.m. — McMercy Family Band
- Michael McNevin — Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University: Information: The details: Michael McNevin's songs read like short stories, full of heart, humor, and a keen eye for detail.Accomplished guitar work and seasoned vocals underscore the characters and places he comes across in his travels. Open Mic 7 p.m., Featured Artist 7:30-8:15 p.m., Open Mic 8:30-9 p.m.
- Texana Troubador Festival — Southern Sky Music Cafe, 6:30 p.m. Information: https://www.southernskymusiccafe.com
Markets and sales
- Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.
- Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1–3 p.m. Information: https://kerrvillet.gov/349/FOTL-Book-Sale 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.
- Cody Canada and the Departed — Arcadia Live!, 7:30 p.m. Information: The details: Cody Canada & The Departed is a three-piece Americana roots-rock band based in New Braunfels, Texas. Opening act featuring The Damn Quails.
Book it! Again.
The issue of allegedly naughty books came before the Kerr County Commissioner's Court and the Kerrville City Council on Tuesday, and the result is there could be a divorce between the two governments.
The Kerrville City Council made it clear — again — it was not going to take action against the staff of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library for a banned book display that featured LGBTQ+-themed titles. Both meetings heard calls for Library Director Danielle Brigatti's firing, but that will not happen.
The impasse, however, could be a separation between the city and county over a quid-pro-quo agreement on library and animal control services. The city doesn't pay for animal control, while the county provides no funding for the library, but county residents can use it without cost.
Earlier Tuesday, the commissioner's court held steady on its dissatisfaction with the library. Commissioners Don Harris, Harley Belew and Jonathan Letz are outspoken in their outrage at the library situation and constitute a majority to invoke a 90-day exit from the interlocal agreement. Commissioner Beck Gipson remains silent on the issue, while County Judge Rob Kelly publicly apologized to Brigatti for her treatment by protesters.
If that happens, Kerrville would have to scramble to provide animal control — estimated at more than $1 million per year.
A tool to ease Kerrville's housing troubles — maybe
The Kerrville City Council moved Tuesday night to create a public facilities corporation that could assist in bringing affordable housing to Kerrville in the form of more apartments.
In a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Roman Garcia dissenting, the Council created the entity that would be a private-public partnership that allows large-scale apartment projects. It's a complicated process that will enable developers to construct apartments through a series of qualifying tax breaks.
To do that, the developer transfers the property to the public facilities corporation to receive tax exemptions. In turn, the developer manages the project and pays fees back to the corporation.
Assistant City Manager Michael Hornes delivered the presentation to the City Council, which received a similar proposal from a San Antonio-based attorney earlier this year. However, Hornes laid out these provisions:
- The developer will assume all financial risks.
- The developer will bring a proprietary capital stack to project.
- They will guaranty construction completion, costs and operations.
- They will set rent, budgets and policies.
- They will manage day-to-day operations.
It's not a new idea for Kerrville, originating in the city's 2050 Plan — which manages how the city intends to grow. However, this is the first time the City Council has approved the process.
City Manager E.A. Hoppe said there are no specific projects tied to the corporation's creation. However, it puts the city in a position to attract them quickly.
Peterson Health President and CEO Cory Edmondson said he supported the plan, as did Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brad Barnett. Councilmember Joe Herring Jr. told Barnett he wanted to see a vote of support on the public facilities corporation from the Chamber's board of directors.
Widely used across Texas, especially in the larger cities, public facilities corporations are not without criticism or problems. The most important question is if they deprive other taxing agencies, including Kerrville Independent School District, of property tax revenue. A 2020 report by the University of Texas highlighted those concerns, and there are rumblings the Texas Legislature may consider limiting the tool in the future.
Hoppe told the Council there are other ways to look at this issue, including the fact that the city is probably losing property tax and sales tax revenue from Kerrville's housing shortage. On the flip side, Kerrville Independent School District has the authority to create its own public facilities corporation.
Barnett said the solution is one of the quickest available to help ease the housing burden — a key issue for many business owners. However, frequent Council critic George Baroody argued that the property-tax loss creates an unfunded mandate for the school district and county to provide services.
Hoppe's response, once again, relied on the suggestion that more housing would strengthen Kerrville's sales tax revenue. Kerrville's growth in the medical fields — with hundreds of unfilled jobs at Peterson Health and the Kerrville State Hospital — is exacerbated by the housing issues. Kerrville Independent School District Superintendent Mark Foust repeatedly highlights teachers who have left the area because of housing concerns.
And the other issue facing Kerrville is that soaring property valuations have led the school district to be on the brink of having to return revenue to the state for redistribution to other districts.
It's the alphabet soup meeting
Tuesday night's meeting also featured a discussion about three abbreviations — short-term rentals, public improvement districts and municipal utility districts. For those reading this morning, it's STRS, PIDS and MUDS.
- The City Council approved seven short-term rentals, including reversing at least one rejection recommendation from the city's planning and zoning commission. The City Council is nearing the end of short-term rental approvals with a new ordinance that went into effect limiting their expansion last Sunday.
- With a 4-1 vote, Councilmember Roman Garcia dissented, and the City Council approved a plan to manage public improvement districts — a bonding initiative allowing cities to create special infrastructure districts. In many cases, the tool can pay for landscaping and other quality-of-life implements in new subdivisions, but it also has other implications.
- The city staff received a stern warning from Councilmember Joe Herring Jr. regarding a proposal on MUDS. The Council met last week for a workshop on crafting policies to handle MUDS and PIDS. Herring was upset with city staff when the proposal came back without the changes requested by Councilmember Kim Clarkson. The Council voted to table the plan until city staff can re-work it. Unlike PIDS, MUDS are initially regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality because they involve water.
Hill Country Scholarship Fund kicks off campaign
Schreiner University senior Annie Wallace talks about the impact the Hill Country College Fund has had on her academic career.
Annie Wallace wanted to play softball in college; she also wanted a small-school environment. The thought of private university tuition seemed daunting.
As a high school senior at Boerne Champion, Wallace started looking around at potential schools, but she found what she was looking for in a familiar place — Kerrville.
"When I stepped on campus, I just really felt at home," said Wallace, who is now in her final year at Schreiner University and is the student-body president. "During my tour, I was able to meet (Schreiner University President Charlie McCormick), and that was kind of a big thing for me."
Wallace put in her application for admission and scholarships. It paid off in a memorable collegiate experience, which the Hill Country College Fund has partially funded.
Schreiner University alum Aaron Yates is leading an alumni effort to raise money for the scholarship fund.
On Tuesday night, Schreiner University kicked off its 2022-2023 campaign to raise more than $700,000. In the fund's 30-year existence, donations have topped $32 million.
The fund paved the way for students to come to Kerrville, stay home, or at least close to home. It's a Hill Country effort.
"The Hill Country College Fund is essential to providing scholarships to our local Hill Country students, allowing them to receive a quality higher educational experience close to home," said Greg Appel, chairman for the 2022-2023 Hill Country College Fund Campaign. "Schreiner University provides a highly personalized experience that allows our students the opportunity to maximize their talents. Local businesses like ours benefit greatly from this talent pool, instead of losing our best and brightest to the big cities."
First-year student Bianca Rodelo thrilled her parents when she chose Schreiner University. They were even more excited when she had about 80% of her expenses covered by the college fund.
Tivy High School grad Bianca Rodelo had about 80% of her collegiate expenses at Schreiner University covered by the Hill Country College Fund.
Rodelo, a Tivy High School grad, said when she received the letter announcing her scholarships, the decision was easy.
"We were struggling to figure out if I was going to go to (University of Texas, Arlington), and we had been praying about it a lot," said Rodelo, who excelled on the soccer pitch and as a band drum major. "When we got the letter it answered those prayers."
Rodelo's parents — Jesus and Raquel Rodelo — were able to keep their daughter closer to home for another year and become part of the Schreiner University community. They accompanied their daughter to Tuesday evening's dinner event on Weir Lawn.
"For her to move so far away was scary," said Raquel Rodelo. "I didn't know if I could handle her going away so far."
That measure of Hill Country closeness and safety was one of the reasons parent Steve Wade said it provided comfort when his son, Ryder, chose Schreiner after graduating from Fredericksburg High in May.
While Ryder Wade and Bianca Rodelo are just beginning their journey, Wallace is coming to the end of her collegiate career. She's focusing on her sports management studies and prepping for her final softball season.
"Schreiner was just the place that I found to be the best," Wallace said.
The first round of subdivision rules are reviewed
The Kerr County Commissioner's Court held an epic five-hour meeting, but one fronted by a pivotal public hearing on new subdivision rules to govern county land use.
The court received its first round of public input on the 120-page plan. In short, the county has limited regulatory power on land use, but this is one tool it can leverage to manage growth. Without question, the potential for sprawl concerns the court — and residents.
In eastern Kerr County, a wave of subdivisions has come before the court. In previous meetings, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly said there are as many as 1,000 re-plats for subdivisions.
One of the biggest concerns is water availability, especially in Center Point. In the unincorporated enclave, residents have loosely organized to provide feedback to the court about water issues.
Three speakers, including Dr. William Rector, said the county missed an opportunity to follow Dark Skies provisions that would limit light pollution. Rector couched the issue in terms of light trespassing from neighbors. Other dark sky communities have regulations restricting the types of outdoor fixtures in residential development — mainly in the form of down lighting. The sense from the court is that something they won't consider.
To read the subdivision plan: https://www.co.kerr.tx.us/notices/Kerr_Co_SENT_Public_Hearing_Draft_with_App_and_Bates_Nos_Sub_MHRC_Regs.pdf
For dumb comments, the commissioners are always on point
If you're going to find a place for dumb comments, spend time watching the Kerr County Commissioner's Court. It's inevitable. The latest example is Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz.
"I don't believe what's in the papers," Letz said. "They put things in there wrong so much."
Certainly, newspapers make mistakes — it's the nature of the medium — yet that doesn't mean what they report isn't true. We will give Letz credit for the courage to admit willful ignorance.
The Old Yeller factor
Someone asked us why we thought there was a 3-2 vote on the Commissioner's Court about the library.
It's simple — "Old Yeller."
That's right, the classic book. Sitting quietly in the Precinct 2 commissioner's seat is Beck Gipson, whose father wrote the book that Disney adapted into a 1957 movie that left most Baby Boomers traumatized.
The movie, according to some, is the No. 2 most traumatizing children's movie ever. There are mountains of commentaries and opinions about the impact of the book's dog-death ending. Here's a sample from Common Sense media:
- "I read this when I was in 6th grade. I got to where the guy shoots his dog in the head and was sobbing so much I couldn't read any more. It affected me so much I can't believe they allow, even recommend it for kids under 16."
And then there was this insightful post from a Disney blogger:
- "I remember having the book by Fred Gipson read to my fourth-grade class because, oh, it's a nice story about a dog; what could possibly go wrong? Everything. The answer is everything. And let me tell you, it doesn't get any easier reading it as an adult. Because this dog is Old Yeller, the tagline may have been "a film to remember with glowing pleasure," but let me tell you: there is no pleasure here. Just sadness."
Now, here's the rub: Can you imagine reading that book to a fourth-grade class today?