Votes – 2 August 2016

“Votes” is a log of the high-profile agenda items discussed and voted upon by the Kyle City Council. I will summarize the items and provide the reason for why I voted the way I did.

NOTE: Feel free to ask any questions or make any comments below. I will respond in a timely manner. You are welcome to respectfully disagree. Comments that are overly negative, overly personal, or disparaging will not be allowed.

Complete Agenda: Here
Council Video: Here

(BONUS: Skip to 13:55 in the video and watch the council stand and do an exercise, courtesy of Jennifer Crosby and For the Love of Go.)

Item 8. Join the Clean Air Coalition

Council: 2-3 Against
My Vote: Against

Last night we listened to a presentation to join the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition, a division of the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG). The request was for Kyle to join the Coalition as a sponsoring member, meaning we would provide data and feedback to CAPCOG concerning the city’s emissions in hopes that such data could be useful for reduction efforts across the region. Joining would also mean we have the ability to apply for small grants that reward emission reduction efforts. The examples given were solar powered patrol units and trading in older vehicles for new ones if they reduced emissions by 95%.

I was not in favor of joining the Coalition because there did not seem to be a measurable benefit. There was no compelling reason. While grant dollars for special projects is a carrot, the pool of grant applicants would be large and the scope of the grants seemed to be limited. Furthermore, Kyle has low point source pollution. I did not feel we were accomplishing anything by committing to the organization. While I understand and sympathize with environmentally conscious initiatives, I have experienced first-hand how the EPA and other regulating agencies can adversely effect those they are are trying to help. Without a compelling reason, I voted against the measure.

With that said, the vote failed 2-3. Because two councilmembers were absent I have requested the item be brought back before council for reconsideration.

Item 9. Alarm System Registration, Fees, and Fines (Second Reading).

Council: Tabled

After feedback from many members in the community, this item was clearly needing further consideration. The Mayor recommended tabling the ordinance until we could ascertain more about the third-party vendor who would administer the registrations. We also will look into other alternatives for solving the problem of excessive false alarms.

As a side note, one alternative to registration that many citizens recommended and in which I thought was a good idea is not allowed under state law. The logic goes: if false alarms are the problem just increase the fine or reduce the number of free responses from the police when a false alarm is triggered. But section 214.197 of the State Local Government code regulates this approach and the City of Kyle cannot change it’s current fining structure.

So there’s still work to do. But we have to stop the absurd 99% false alarm rate. It’s draining to an already understaffed PD.

Item 10. “Stop Sign” Ordinance to regulate the method for citizens to request traffic control device studies (TCDs).

Council: 5-0 against
My vote: against

Last month we tabled discussions having to do with regulating the method for citizens to request TCDs in their neighborhood. After some serious efforts to rewrite the ordinance, I concluded that we have not been approaching this the right way. Asking citizens to make a deposit or sign a petition to request a warrant study only further removes the decision from those whose opinions are most qualified on this issue: the city staff (specifically the city engineer and the chief of police). If the study concluded that a TCD was unwarranted, the ordinance would have the item brought before council against the recommendation of staff. The goal of the ordinance was to increase the threshold for unwarranted items to be brought before council, but as it was written (and re-written), the effect was to put increasing pressure on council to install TCDs even if the majority of council (and staff) disapproved.

The appropriate way to deal with TCD requests is through staff, through policy, and unless the TCD is unwarranted but staff recommended, NOT through council. While perhaps not the most perfect approach, this is a fair and appropriate policy.

Item 11. “Dark Skies” Ordinance (First Reading)

Council: 5-0
My vote: In Favor

The “Dark Skies” ordinance will regulate commercial developments in terms of how their exterior lights effect the skyline and neighboring properties. The gist of the policy is to reduce and focus light output in most public areas and commercial developments. Think of light as a utility like water. The goal is to reduce waste. Versions of the ordinance are being passed in many communities across the nation.

I voted for the ordinance because, as it was presented, the cost to new developments would be minimal and the benefit to the community would be substantial. The big problem, however, is that new ordinances such as this will place the majority of Kyle’s existing businesses into “non-conformity” with city code. Therefore, before they can expand or remodel their facilities, they will have to bring their lights into conformity. Retrofitting light fixtures could be an easy fix for some businesses, but might be very costly for others. As a business owner, I struggle with city regulations that change the standard of development and then tell me I cannot materially change my facility without bringing all codes into compliance. It feels like a “gotcha.”

That said, even though I don’t like that aspect of the ordinance, there is really no alternative that doesn’t create a double standard or stymie reasonable regulation. Bottom line: NOT adopting the ordinance means we cannot raise our standards as a city. And the “dark skies” standard is both practical and conscientious.

We simply have to move forward as a city.

2 thoughts on “Votes – 2 August 2016”

  1. I’m having a bit of a problem with your logic on how you voted on a couple of items for this particular week. I’m speaking of your voting “no” on the Clean Air Coalition participation – which was totally voluntary and did not obligate the city to impose any regulations on businesses, citizens or new developments – and then you voted “yes” on a local ordinance (Dark Skies lighting ordinance) that would impose regulations not only on new businesses and citizens, but also existing ones when they make alterations to their building.
    I don’t have real strong feelings on either one of them. Although I guess clean air is more important to me than whether or not the skies are dark at night (most people complain about the streets being too dark – lol). I do think it’s really nice of you to bring back the one that failed by just one vote because two councilmen were absent. That is extremely considerate of your colleagues. Thank you.

  2. Lila,

    I can see how these votes could be viewed as inconsistent. They were both difficult decisions. In the end, I felt that joining the CTCAC was more about perception than substance, for the reasons you stated. The dark skies ordinance, on the other hand, was a substantial shift in our standards and will set us up to be more conscientious moving forward. You are correct that the ordinance does have negative consequences. It was a hard vote.

    As for bringing the CTCAC vote back, thank you. The way I see it, in a seven member council, 3-2 votes should always be brought back.

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