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My View - Trust & the City'

By Steve Ball

As the saying goes, trust is the glue that holds society together. Without trust, very little can be achieved. Without trust there cannot be cooperation, confidence and, above all, investment in the future.
In the 10 years I have lived in Bandera, not a week has gone by without some "speculation or rumour" that city council was doing this or that - actions that various parties strongly disagreed with. The end result has been a declining trust and confidence in anything the city officials come up with.
Is this fair, I asked myself?
Over recent weeks and months I have discussed my concerns, including the direction that the city is headed, with friends and fellow citizens to see what they thought. Without exception, all have agreed that the level of trust and confidence in the city is at an all-time low - and has been that way for quite some years.
Lack of transparency
What do they think is the root cause of this declining trust, I asked? More often than not the answer was a general "lack of transparency" by the city and "lack of detailed consultation" with the citizens and businesses not only in the city, but also in the county.
The former Mayor Mr, Don Clark, with whom I find myself partly in agreement, recently called for "an end to this feuding among city, businesses and county residents," who blame each other for various problems.
Bandera County is a small place and what happens in Bandera - both the county and city - materially affects everyone in the county, including city residents. Like night follows day, it follows, therefore, that decisions made in the city must recognise and give due respect for the county's residents and business owners who contribute much to the wellbeing of Bandera.
This is one of the main reasons I recently made a call to unincorporate the city (council) so that we can focus on solutions that best fit all in the county.
Turkeys don't vote
for Christmas
As they say, turkeys don't vote for Christmas so it comes as no surprise that my call to unincorporate the city (council) is being dismissed by municipal elected officials, past and present.
Perceived power and status, no matter how fleeting, is often more important to some than the need to be effective. Demonstrating leadership and vision is risky and requires guts and determination so lacking in politicians at all levels in our society today.
It is absolutely imperative that elected officials are meticulous in their dealings on behalf of the citizens and, above all, absolute transparency! Too many "closed door meetings" have been reported and "too few detailed reports given" on decisions and actions taken. This must stop if trust is to be reclaimed. Where detailed reports are made, more effort needs to be made to convey this information to the general public and not hide behind arcane council procedures.
There is absolutely no room for speculation and rumour when all city dealings affecting all citizens of the county are common public knowledge and I call upon city council to pursue this path with full rigor.
Inconsistent city
Many of the business owners I have spoken with have complained of inconsistent application of city regulations and building codes. The main cause of this is that projects appear to be looked at on a "case by case basis." The city completely lacks professional and experienced employees who can discuss consistently and with authority, even minor issues. This creates unnecessary delay and expense by all.
This leads me on nicely to respond to former City Councilman Glenn Clark in his recent criticism of the Cabaret, which I own and which lies forlorn and derelict on a "key site" on Main Street.
I won't bother Courier readers with the full history, which was well reported in the past - please refer to 2014 newspaper editions - but in summary:
Outline plans were indeed welcomed by the city to partially demolish the existing building and restore the rest to a multi-use venue incorporating western country music and dance. Following demolition of the dilapidated annex wooden structures, the then city administrator then pronounced - without warning or consultation - that the building must now be rebuilt to full modern code, which, in effect, meant that the cost to rebuild the Cabaret would more than double.
Without actually saying that the Cabaret was "not wanted" in the city, the application of new rules effectively wiped out any possibility of an economic return. It also meant the complete destruction of what was left of the old historic structure. As a consequence, I stopped the project dead in its tracks and "other uses" for the site are being investigated.
To further emphasise the inconsistency and lack of transparency, I recently raised the matter of the request by Gene Hartman and associates for the city to assist him financially to build a hotel on the adjacent block to the Cabaret. Additionally, Hartman requested that the city allow him to dispense with the need for a car park, a code requirement, on his property and for the city to (reconfigure Oak Street) for hotel use as a car park.
Given that these demands were not rejected out of hand underscores the points I am making. On the contrary, both the current mayor and Lamar Shultz, the recently deposed city administrator, couldn't contain their excitement at the prospect of the hotel development.
At a site meeting last May last year, they outlined to me the proposal to close Oak Street to facilitate the development. This was inconsistent with the city demand that I build a car park at my expense as a condition of rebuilding the Cabaret to new building code specifications.
However, I am not the only one who has fallen victim to the inconsistent behaviour of the city and its officials. I am sure that in the coming weeks others will come forward to describe their experiences.
Lost taxes, lost jobs
May I also point out the very significant amount of city tax revenue lost in recent years as a result the poor dealings and lack of rapport with business owners. No mention is ever made of this by city officials!
Projects delayed, cancelled or postponed mean jobs lost in the community - and no apologies were given or solutions offered.
Finally, I join with (suggestions) to reach out to the citizens and businesses of Bandera and surrounding county to come together to help the city focus on those things that matter for the wellbeing of our future generations.
Let's try to build a consensus for a bright vision of the future and create an administration with the experience talent and energy to implement it. I will address this point in more detail in the coming weeks so let's keep the debate rolling.