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The Lead Sept. 28, 2022: You can book it, but a little mussel carries serious weight in Kerr County

While a discussion about books was the circus act of the night, the real news was a mussel specific to Kerr County that is headed to the U.S. Endangered Species was the big news.

Good morning!

And we're giving it to you straight this morning because last night's Kerrville City Council topped six hours. Whew! Today's weather — sunny and warm.

On today's The Lead Live!

It's Wonderful Wednesday with Rachel Fitch. She'll give us her take on things, including her latest sales through Fitch Estate Sales and Gold Cup Pawn. Andrew Gay will join us to discuss the latest in financial news.

Upcoming Featured Events

The Kerrville Chalk Festival,Oct. 15-16, Kerrville City Hall

Kerrville Chalk Festival is a family-friendly art event for the Texas Hill Country. More than 65 artists create large-scale chalk drawings directly on the pavement. Kerrville’s downtown becomes a festive canvas for local and regional artists, as wells as invited guest artists from around the United States.

The Festival has live music, many free activities, food trucks, as well as wine and craft beer. It attracts an estimated 10,000 attendees annually. Read about the history of chalk art.

Held at Peterson Plaza in the heart of downtown, the event encourages tourists and locals to dine, shop, and experience the beauty and charm of Kerrville, Texas.

The 2022 beneficiary is Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center (KACC). KACC was founded in 1995 by a group of artists with a mission of providing a show place for local artists and to further the arts and culture in the community. The Center is comprised of sixteen affiliated groups representing over 500 artists and has three distinct gallery spaces. It attracts over 20,000 visitors annually.

Mark your calendar for Public Power Week Oct. 2-8, and the Bucket Truck Rides

The Kerrville Public Utility Board (KPUB) is hosting a family-friendly event to meet our heroes in hardhats while we celebrate Public Power Week!

Please mark your calendars for Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., to join us in Louise Hays Park for a free community event!

This will be a free community event with family-friendly activities that will include taking a ride in one of KPUB’s bucket trucks, arc & spark demos, line worker tool displays, photo ops with our linemen, face painting and more.

KPUB will be providing free hot dogs, chips and refreshments on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as a free t-shirt for the first 100 attendees. For more information:

A mussel trumps our stormy conversation about books

The Guadalupe Famtucket is headed to the endagered species list.

If you thought the big news from Tuesday night's Kerrville City Council was all about books at the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, you'd be surprised it was all about a pair of mussels.

The Kerrville City Council tackled a truckload of significant issues in a meeting lasting more than six hours. Still, it was an hour-long presentation at the 4 p.m. workshop that raised the most eyebrows, and it was all about a pair of endangered mussels.

We understand that all of you are anxiously awaiting the play-by-play of the Council's discussion about a display of books, but you will have to scroll down for it.

Kerrville is facing the listing of the Guadalupe Fatmucket mussel, a species almost entirely native to Kerr County, on the federal Endangered Species Act. To be clear, according to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority's Nathan Pence, it's almost certain that the mussel will be on the Endangered Species Act.

And the mussel's habitat is specific to the Guadalupe River through Kerr County, along with the river's north fork and Johnson Creek. City Manager E.A. Hoppe said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials were in Kerr County over the last few months surveying the river.

Pence's presentation outlined how a federal listing could impact Kerrville, suggesting the city consider joining the GBRA and other agencies and municipalities in a Habitat Conservation Plan that could limit liability if the agencies violate federal law.

Pence said that the Seguin-based BGRA wants to develop a 50-year conservation plan to help ensure water delivery to its customers and ensure water quality standards from the headwaters to the tidewaters. But protected species along the Guadalupe River aren't just a pair of mussels; they could be a much broader collection, including the Monarch Butterfly and the Golden Cheek Warbler

The tidal wave of information may have caught the City Council off guard.

"Why are you here?" questioned Councilmember Joe Herring asked Pence. For a moment, Herring questioned why wasn't the Upper Guadalupe River Authority involved in the discussion. While UGRA General Manager Tara Busnoe was in the audience, Kerrville needed to hear the presentation because it essentially owns a water company that draws from the river.

Not only is the Guadalupe Fatmucket headed toward listing, but so is the Guadalupe Orb —a species with a broader habitat range. Public Works Director Stuart Barron said the mussels play a key role in the river's ecology. Pence added that the presence of the mussels helps keep the river clean and clear.

The tricky part for Kerrville is that it could open itself to a lawsuit if it doesn't adopt a Habitat Conservation Plan. BGRA is already in a position to allow the city others to be part of that plan. There are still plenty of unanswered questions, including if it would impact the city's ability to draw water from the river. In years with drought, that's a distinct possibility.

Onto the discussion about banned or objectionable books

The City Council sent a clear message on Tuesday night at least four members would stand behind the staff of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library in the wake of a controversy over a banned book display last week.

That consensus of support from Councilmembers Kim Clarkson, Joe Herring, Brenda Hughes and Mayor Judy Eychner sets up a potential showdown with a majority of the Kerr County Commissioner's Court in the coming weeks regarding a one-year contract between the city and county that trades library and animal control services.

On Monday, Kerr County Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz said the library had crossed the line by displaying a sexually explicit book as part of its banned book week display. Letz and fellow commissioners Harley David Belew and Don Harris formed at least a 3-2 majority to force the county to order a 90-day notice to terminate the contract.

Led by Eychner, the City Council waded through a lengthy presentation about the library's collection development policy from Library Director Danielle Brigatti. But the night's focus was more than 20 speakers who either supported the library or wanted library staff prosecuted for promoting child pornography.

Many speakers cited Texas penal code that defines obscene content, urging the City Council to take legal action against the library staff. That's unlikely.

The supercharged issue centered around the display of the book "Gender Queer." The graphic novel is an autobiography of author Maia Kobabe, who is non-binary. The book does have one page of explicit oral sex.

However, the crux of those opposed to the display suggested that the display featured sex acts on the cover, fully accessible to children. As speaker Jennyth Peterson noted, many of the books in question — all related to LGBTQ+ themes — are sequestered in the adult section. She also pushed back against the suggestion that "Gender Queer" was child porn because the sex act in question occurs between two adults.

What wasn't addressed, at least from those angered by the display, was whether sexual health books are ever appropriate and if this was a backlash against the LGBTQ+ community. The Texas Education Agency is reviewing more than 800 titles — almost all related to sexuality, gender, sexual health and race — that some want removed from the schools.

Speaker Jerry Wolff may have summed up the feelings of some in the room by characterizing LGBTQ+ issues as a political issue rather than a cultural one. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in July over a requirement that the state's schools couldn't discriminate based on sexual or general identity. Paxton's actions, along with the TEA review of books, have left many in the LGBTQ+ community wondering if the state was an inclusive place to call home.

Certainly, some of the City Hall speakers suggested people return to California and other states and that people coming to Texas wanted to escape more pervasive (or tolerant) ideas over sexuality and gender identity.

Councilmember Roman Garcia argued that the library staff crossed a line by intentionally relocating the books to the display. Garcia called for an inquiry into the matter.

Herring set the tone for the Council's position by saying he supported the library staff and those who spoke out against the display. Several speakers said they wanted to see the city drop recommendations from the American Library Association, but Hughes asked Brigatti if the library staff accepted all suggestions from the ALA.

Brigatti said no and then offered up a plan for the future. Brigatti said the library would continue to honor "Banned Book Week," but would only display photocopies of book covers while providing the context of why the book is challenged or banned.

That assertion seemed to assuage some of Hughes' concerns, but the controversy appears far from over.

Today's events

Collegiate sports

  • Women's volleyball — Schreiner University, 6 p.m. The Mountaineers host McMurry University in a non-conference match, and it's the home opener for Schreiner.

The Arts

  • KACC Exhibits — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: Three art exhibits. "Artwork by Phyllis & Doug Garey," "Kerrville Art Club Member Show," local artist exhibition and art sale, and "Quilts and Other Art Forms," local quilters exhibit.
  • 39th Annual Western Art Show and Sale — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: The Exhibition and sale will bring together more than 40 top Western Artists presenting more than 100 original works of Western Art.

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: 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.

Live music

  • The Pickers Circle — La Escondida 1962, 7 p.m. Information: La Escondida 1962 The details: Anyone can join. Just show up.
  • Karaoke — Pier 27 River Lounge and Pizzeria, 7 p.m. Information: 830-896-7437
  • Michael Hearne — Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University, 7 p.m. Information: The details: Michael Hearne's destiny has been tangled in wire and wood since he first laid his hands on a guitar at seven. With a natural ear for harmony and an aptitude for picking, it wasn't long before a young Michael Hearne was a fixture at parties and local events in his childhood hometown of Dallas. By 16, he had honed his skills on the guitar and, without a doubt in his mind about his destiny, he hit the road as a touring musician.


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