Residents filled the Kerrville City Council Chamber on Tuesday night for what would be a heated meeting addressing a long list of items, including whether Place 2 Councilman George Baroody should remain banned from discussions regarding a pending federal lawsuit against the city.
The council’s move to bar one of their own from so weighty a matter is certainly worthy of attention — a rather unprecedented move duly deserving of community input. But perhaps that dispute wasn’t the most significant item on Tuesday’s agenda.
Residents lined up to address the council and Baroody specifically. They urged the council to work together and to refrain from rehashing business already put to bed.
One resident aptly observed, “it’s very easy to see that these three vote a certain way, and these two vote a certain way,” and he suggested council members swap chairs to better foster communication and new perspectives.
The topic of divisiveness wove throughout the meeting and, in fact, was directly addressed in an agenda
item that saw one council member asking the others to attend a workshop on improving teamwork.
But also on the agenda that night were items related to the future development of a newly annexed portion of the city — a project that could have an impact for decades to come.
The water infrastructure improvements approved Tuesday and the economic incentives granted to fund it, in part by the city’s 4B half-cent sales tax, could pave the way for future growth in an area of the city that, up to this point, has largely been undeveloped.
According to documents from the city, the project on Thompson Drive is expected to generate $22 million in additional property and sales tax revenues during the next 30 years and could open up new areas for housing and utility services in an area that was identified as a possible project as far back as the city’s 2012 Wastewater Master Plan.
Chances are, the idea of new development around Kerrville and the funding mechanism used to bring it to fruition won’t be met with universal cheers. But few would argue that the more than yearlong discussion into the project is exactly the kind of weighty decision-making that deserves to occupy our leaders’ time and energy.
And although most likely to have lasting impact, the development-related agenda items probably weren’t the issues that drew such a noticeably larger-than-usual crowd to council this week. Instead, as one speaker said, it might have been to “see the circus come to town.”
From the Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan to the downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone and the extension of the River Trail system — Kerrville City Council has handled a lot of important and impactful business recently — all of which drew dissenting opinions.
Divided votes are not the problem. Disagreements that stem from authentic, reasoned differences of opinion are healthy. Robust debate leads to better, more refined public policy and protects the careful shaping of our future.
But disagreement based primarily on personal allegiances, taking of sides or grudges benefit no one, and can tarnish the hard work and success our leaders have achieved despite these public squabbles.
We urge our leaders — and their supporters and the community at large — to stay focused on priorities. There are plenty of complex decisions and much hard work ahead, and we owe it to each other to tackle it in a civilized, productive manner.