The hard lesson of optics in politics

I’ve taken some time to earnestly reflect on what transpired in the last week related to the controversy surrounding our city manager’s proposed contract extension that included an option to lease a house from the city. In a rush to respond to the melee of negative feedback, most of my statements were pithy and, admittedly, incomplete. If you care to read, I want to give a narrated account of what led me to support the contract. I will conclude with a few lessons I learned and a sincere apology to you, the residents of Kyle.

Let’s start from the beginning. A few months ago, I was notified that discussions were underway to extend our city manager’s contract through 2025. In small-to-medium size towns, the city manager is often one of the highest paid persons in the city because the city is often the largest employer. It is also a highly volatile position and prone to turnover.

Regardless, in a town exploding in population like Kyle, the city manager is a crucial position. The goal of a good council is to find a great city manager and keep him or her around for the long term.

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The challenge of leading

The last 48 hours have been difficult to navigate, both politically and personally. On the one hand, the proposed contract extension for our city manager is something I strongly believe was in the best interest of the taxpayers. On the other hand, the taxpayers by-and-large didn’t agree.

Many of the comments were, as I see it, short-sighted. But I don’t believe they were off-base. I just have a different perspective. And that brings me to the question I have wrestled with since the day I was elected. Is it my job to support popular measures, or go with what I believe is right, even if most disagree? There’s no easy answer.

I want to thank those who spoke out against the contract. It was difficult to stomach, but nonetheless I appreciate feedback from our citizens. From day one I have tried to be as transparent and communicative as possible in my role on city council. That means I must embrace criticism. I have learned a great deal from this and will incorporate those lessons into how I lead moving forward.

We will go back to the drawing board with the contract. I know there are many perspectives on what that contract should include. You are welcome to share them as you have been all week.

Again, thank you for participating in our government. We are all fighting for the same thing – a beautiful and prosperous city. And that means we’re on the same team.

Why we invested in a house for the Kyle City Manager

On Tuesday, 12/6, my colleagues and I approved a contract extension for the Kyle City Manager through 2025 that included a housing component. That component has been under scrutiny from the public after articles were written in the Hays Free Press and on KXAN.com. Social media has had a field day with the story. More media coverage will surely follow as I have been interviewed today by KXAN and the Austin American-Statesman. Considering the nature of how this contract has been perceived, I want to explain the facts of the deal and the rationale I used in making the decision.

Here are the facts of the housing component to the contract extension.

  1. The house will be built in Cypress Forrest at an amount not to exceed $550,000 plus closing costs ($6,500).
  2. The house belongs to the city, not the city manager.
  3. The city manager will lease the house from the city in the form of a salary reduction.
  4. The lease amount is equal to the purchase price of the home amortized over 30 years at 3.45% interest (~$29,500 annually).
  5. All city property, including this house, is exempt from property tax.
  6. The insurance for the home is covered under the city’s umbrella policy and the premiums are roughly $83/month.
  7. The city manager will pay for all utilities and routine upkeep of the property, but the city will pay for any substantial repairs – in other words, a standard lease agreement.

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My small business proposal for Kyle, TX

The following is a transcript with slides of the presentation I made to the Kyle City Council on 12.6.16. The presentation was the first step in bringing this program to reality. I will now begin working with city staff to draft an ordinance for council consideration in early 2017. You can watch the presentation online by clicking here.

 

First Year on Us Kyle, TXI think we can all agree that commercial development in Kyle is a good thing. It provides jobs, sales tax revenue, property tax revenue, and opportunities for our residents to purchase goods and services right here in Kyle. And as most of you know, I made owning a business a major part of my platform when I ran for city council earlier this year. Something I often heard from residents while campaigning was that the city could be more equitable in its treatment of the commercial community. Their point was that in the last ten years most of our incentives have gone to large, master-planned commercial developments who recruit large businesses and franchises to fill the space. These entities negotiate agreements that include property tax refunds, sales tax refunds, city bonds to pay for infrastructure, and dedicated staff time drafting agreements to help their projects succeed.

But smaller, local businesses have not received similar opportunities to partner with the city, at least not in the same way. And as a small business owner who built my business in the city, I must say I agree. This proposal is my attempt to start changing that narrative and making it crystal clear that we value all businesses who invest resources into our community. Continue reading “My small business proposal for Kyle, TX”