“As She Sees It” – Opinion Column

By Nikki Caines

Note: This was submitted to the Kerrville Daily Times on March 30th

Within the last 18 months or so several hot topic issues have come before Council that the outcome should have reflected the community’s values. Here’s just a few examples of how the current city council voted against the majority of their own constituents (voters) and our community values:

Example 1:

Parents discovered filthy books were being peddled to children in the Butt-Holdsworth Public Library. So they rightly asked to move (not remove) obscene books from the children’s section of the library to the adult section instead. Citizens on both sides came before Council for weeks. A petition of over 1,400 voters asked for the council to direct the library to move the obscene books to the adult section. On November 8, 2022, then councilmember Kim Clarkson and current Mayor and council members Judy Eychner, Joe Herring & Brenda Hughes fervently opposed moving the books. Hughes went so far as to slam the Holy Bible onto the dias and compared the sins the Bible condemns as wrong to those in the obscene books where such behavior is promoted as normal and celebrated (available on city council video). The Mayor instructed the Library Advisory Board (LAB) to review their documents & bring back proposed changes. Weeks later it was noticed that the changes had been posted to both the library and city websites. When asked how this happened, the Mayor stated that the staff had seen the changes and okayed them. WAIT! We elected the council to do this. Council abdicated their authority, gave preferential treatment to the LAB, thereby avoiding a record vote of the council. I doubt the Planning & Zoning Board and all the other boards under their authority would be allowed to take action without the express vote and approval of the city council.

Example 2:

City Council voted to approve a second Lennar development of approximately 500 homes behind the middle school. Again, for several council meetings, citizens brought concerns & questions related to a drain on natural resources (water), the Consumer Reports evidence from actual buyers regarding subpar building and Lennar’s poor reputation as a home builder, the loss of city tax revenue in subsidizing a multi-million dollar company (that doesn’t need our hard-earned tax dollars to subsidize its profits), etc. In the September 14 issue of the Kerrville Daily Times, Councilman Joe Herring stated that Lennar was appreciated for the 125 homes in the first development, but when speaking about the new homes potentially being added to the mix he said, “I don’t want to subsidize a product for an investor.” Yet the vote to approve the new Lennar development were Herring, Harris, Eychner, & Hughes. The only member to question it and vote against it was Councilman Roman Garcia. To further dismiss the speakers, Herring calling each concerned citizen a member of the “organized opposition,” when there was no ‘organized opposition. Agenda item 5B on 11/14/23 can be seen on video on the city’s web site.

Example 3:

The most recent adverse action by the city is the revised ordinance, No. 2024-03 limiting solicitors and canvassers. Again, after three meetings and a workshop with citizens reminding council that this was an issue of limiting Free Speech under the Constitution, the only member to listen and stand with citizens was Councilman Garcia. City Attorney Mike Hayes stands by his revision of the new ordinance and each council member was asked on the record if it violated free speech. Again, the only member to recognize the action of abridging free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution was Garcia. Every voter should read the specific wording in the differences of definition between solicitor and canvasser as well as the restrictions in 30-180 and 30-183 to understand that religious and political speech was targeted. With a vote of 4-1 (Garcia the lone dissenting vote) on March 26, this ordinance passed.

If you are one of the many who have signed a petition, sent an email or taken the time to attend council to offer your comments, pleas, concerns or questions regarding any number of issues, but left feeling like it fell on deaf ears, you aren’t alone. It’s time to decide if Herring and Hughes (and the third candidate running alongside them, Kent McKinney) will listen to Kerrville residents and reflect our community values, as well as determine whether the two incumbents have earned re-election. Your vote and voice should count!