Today voters across Texas will go to the polls to cast ballots in state and local races. Right here in the Hill Country, voters will be asked to consider 10 proposed amendments to the state’s constitution. In the city of Kerrville, voters will be asked to consider 19 proposed changes to the charter — the city’s governing document.
In the case of Kerrville, we recommend approving 17 of the 19 propositions on the ballot. Most of these changes to the city’s charter are simple, eliminating redundancy and better aligning with state law. However, Propositions N and Q remove some specific language that could compromise transparency, and we recommend a no vote — sending this back to the City Council and city staff for a rewrite.
As this Editorial Board has written about before, we fully support many of the improvements this City Council and staff have made to move the city forward, including the Kerrville 2050 plan. However, there are times when we believe we have to draw a line, especially as it involves maintaining a transparent government.
Despite city assurances, Proposition N, which aims to streamline the budget process, is problematic for us because it places an emphasis on the city’s website as the sole arbiter of information about the city budgeting process. We will still report on these matters, but it was incumbent upon the city to advertise these changes with one of the community’s newspapers. That’s a good requirement to have.
The problem with the city’s website is that it can’t be relied on to draw mass readers the way community newspapers do, and if residents go there to seek out budget information. Further, this change in the city’s charter doesn’t spell out some of the technological questions that many would have, such as:
Does the budget information need to be on the home page?
Should it be shared on social media?
Does it have to be searchable by Google or other web search engines?
Is it an HTML file or a PDF?
Does it require a password?
The changes outlined in Proposition N require none of those disclosures, and we believe that removing the specifics leaves it open to the broadest interpretation.
In the case of Proposition Q, the city is looking to streamline the process for potential franchises to come in and offer essential city services such as power or cable television, etc. The existing process includes a recommendation that an ordinance granting franchise rights be advertised in a newspaper for four weeks. That has been stricken from the proposition.
Like Proposition N, this move feels anti-transparent, and we cannot recommend approval. We agree that the former process was lengthy, but there’s a reason why previous councils and administrations put the language there in the first place — to protect the residents of this city.
In the end, we recommend approval of 17 of the 19 Kerrville ballot propositions to change the city charter, but we recommend a no vote on proposals N and Q.