John Kelley: Council Watch
Peter Zanoni and the staff took a standing ovation from the Council for their work during the recent storm. Councilman John Martinez noted that the city’s Facebook page was an excellent way to keep up on present information.
There will be an out-of-cycle brush pickup to deal with storm debris that will be announced in approximately two weeks. That will allow the city to see the total damage from the cold snap and hire contractors. The City also adjusted the winner averaging formula for water use by using last February’s water usage instead of this year’s. That way, citizens won’t be penalized for directing their pipes or broken pipes.
Item 13 on the agenda was renewal of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau contract. The CVB contract came under scrutiny for several reasons. Councilman Smith noted that an audit had revealed a number of deficiencies including a lack of oversight. Councilman possibly noted that although the city pays for 95% of its funding to the hot taxes it only gets seven votes on the 17 member board. The CVB is set up as a private entity and has in the past been accused of nepotism and mismanagement. The Council voted unanimously to restructure the contract and examine it at a future date.
Executive Session Item. During lunch the Council had an executive session and returned to vote to pay for funding a lawsuit against the construction companies that built the Broadway wastewater treatment plan. There has been several deficiencies noted costing the taxpayers extra to redo.
Item 16. The rezoning for Brasleton Development and Gulfway Shopping Center has a history. The property rezoning was made possible by the controversial vote to extend Rodd Field Rd. Rodd Field Road would have been extended at state anyway at a future date. Some members of the Council questioned building a new road that was only going to benefit developers instead of spending the money to expand the heavily used and dangerous portion of Yorktown South of Rodd Field Road.
The Southside Light News at the time pointed out that Hernandez, the main proponent, accepted thousands of dollars from these very same developers in campaign contributions shortly before the decision. At the time Mr. Hernandez’s reasoning was that access from Brasleton’s Rancho Vista subdivision could only exit on Yorktown, and said that opening up Rodd Field Road would give additional egress from the subdivision lightening the load on Yorktown. With the addition of hundreds of new homes along Rodd Field road will further overtax both the intersection and Yorktown to the east.
Item 18 and 19 were combined for discussion. The staff recommended both Heritage and Blucher parks for locations of low income housing projects. Because of the way the state does scoring, if both sites were recommended by the Council then the Heritage Park site would win.
Most Council members felt that the Blucher Park area was a more appropriate site citing problems of noise and traffic with the heritage Park site. There was some objection from the Audubon Society on the Blucher Park site, but it became obvious that they would be against any development of any kind. That wasn’t acceptable to the Council. Both developers worked with the city before on multiple projects. One is a nonprofit called Prospera, the other is a for-profit company called Avante. Billy Lerma (D1), Mayor Guajardo, and Gil Hernandez (D5) favored the private for-profit site at Heritage Park.
Hernandez became quite insistent that the Council should favor Avante. He had pointed out that John Longoria, had previously been on Prospera’s Board. It was pointed out that Longoria had not been on Prospera’s board for some time and that prosperity had never been accused of any wrongdoing. Mr. Hernandez then went on to accuse the Council towards Prospera and when confronted by other Council members said the staff was biased. It was noted by staff and Councilmen the both companies were reputable and had a long positive history with the city. Consequently the Heritage site Park site was not approved only receiving support from Lerma, Hernandez and Guajardo.
Item 19 was brought The Blucher Park site up for discussion and approval. Mr. Hernandez, being unable to let his loss go, decided to call the CEO of a Avante to the microphone to see if he had any comments on Prospero’s bid. The chagrined gentleman was very gracious and told the city Council he was grateful for having had the opportunity to make the proposal understood their decision and was perfectly willing to apply again in the future. The Blucher Park site was approved with Lerma and Hernandez dissented.
Item 20 was about the approval of a special permit for laydown yard in Washington-Coles neighborhood. Although this request was turned down by Council two years ago and recommended against by both the planning commission and the staff, it was approved with a special use permit for five years. Lerma and Guajardo voted against it.
Item 21 RV Park was approved for the island unanimously. Item 22 appeal of the demolition on Glazebrook was upheld.
LOOKING AHEAD THIS WEEK
The big item on the agenda are Item 7–the acceptance of $4+ million from the federal government for homeless communities assistance. This funding is to increase shelter capacity, improve outreach to homeless services, provide access to food and jobs. This is the result reaction to theCOVID-19 pandemic. Administrative costs will be covere. The question is, will the city simply use these funds to continue the support the failed policies of the past or look at taking responsibility and control of the homeless problem?
Item 21 should be scrutinized heavily as it takes a bid for asphalt and pipeline work along leopard Street for $.5 Million more than the lowest bid. The owner of Clark pipeline services who is recommended to receive the contract gave thousands of dollars to candidates in the city elections, including those now City Council. The reason Burnside Services Inc., the lowest bidder, was disqualified, was because staff said they had no previous experience with the city. CCISD has been using this reasoning to exclude contractors other than Fulton Construction Company.
Look for fireworks on item 24 when the City appointees to the Port Commission present a report on their activities to the Council and are questioned. The Council is deeply dissatisfied with the Port appointees concerning Port decisions the City deems contrary to the City’s interests.
The Council will then move into Executive Session where they are expected to consult with attorneys concerning on rates charges and ordinance related to water, wastewater and gas and potential legislation related to the Port of Corpus Christi authority in the state of Texas. The port evidently wants to be a competitor with the City for water and other services. Something else to watch for is another issue which should be a matter of great debate when it becomes public, is a proposal to create an area in London as a special tax district including tax reinvestment financing and a municipal management district. This creates additional taxing entities outside the City’s jurisdiction. There is a question as to whether this will bring extra and duplicative costs both to homebuyers in the area and taxpayers