Newspaper Archive of
Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
January 30, 2013     Hays Free Press
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January 30, 2013

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THEY REALLY SAID THAT? "Don't insult our intelligence by saying this [fence] is going to stop a crazy person" -Emily Bratton, a homeowner whose property sits against the Elm Grove Elementary School playground. See story, pg. 3B Hays Free Press January 30' 20i3 ....... Page 3A t !s not against the law for city council members to be at meetings together. Let's get that straight right from the beginning. And, when a quorum is going to be present - at any event - it is good for the city secretary or whoever is in charge to post the meeting, so that the general public knows that council members are present. But, there are always cir- cumstances when a quorum of council members might be present at an event - whether a meeting of an advisory council, as happened recently in Kyle, or at a local wedding. These things happen in small towns. The problem, though, lies when a meeting is not posted and council members speak out on their views. Why is this a problem? Because then the other council members hear views and know how that particular member will vote. That is what occurred at a meeting of the Mobility Advi- sory Committee for the city of Kyle a few weeks ago. It was an accident. A newly elected councilmember answered a question from the audience and gave her opinion. Oops. It is an innocent mistake, and we are sure that she will not do that again. We hope lesson learned. Let's all acknowledge this mishap and move on. The city staff has also learned a lesson. If they think a quorum of the council will be present - and even if the city secretary is on vacation and doesn't get the meet- ing officially posted - then someone on city staff needs to make sure the public is informed that a quorum of the council will be present. Lesson learned. We do not think Kyle city council members were trying to overtly break the law, nor were they making decisions behind closed doors. Because that is really against the law. The Texas Open Meetings Act has very distinct regulations and penalties about what can and cannot be said behind closed doors and out of public pe- rusal. Council members can- not talk in executive session about subjects that should be in the open and fully attend- ed by any resident who wants to hear the goings-on. Only a few things can be discussed in executive session, mainly litigation, personnel issues dealing with an individual employee - not a class of employees, and real estate purchases. Why? Because the public pays the bill. Residents need and want to know how their taxes are being spent and what is going on in their city. Nor can council members do what is called a "walking quorum," wherein they talk one-on-one, and pass that message along. That is dis- cussion about city business that is not in full view of the public. Nor can they whisper and talk together at public meet- ings - whether posted or not - because discussion of public matters need to be just that- made in public. Best to sit apart. Nor can council members emall or text about city busi- ness to each other, discussing their opinions. Again, the public has the right to know. No, Kyie's councilmem- bers probably didn't mean to break the law. On this par- ticular item, they didn't talk behind closed doors, they didn't text each other, they weren't participating in a "walking quorum." It was an innocent com- ment by a new member that caused the law to be broken. It was a mistake that should never again be repeated. We hope the lesson has been learned. / / 4 .( "have been asked a few times how I became a writer. I just tell these in- .quiring minds, "I didn't know I was." Ever since I was a teenager, I enjoyed writing. Not so much English essays and term papers in American History class, but humorous little stories or tall tales. High school teachers claimed I had a flair for writing, but I never re- ally pursued it as a craft. In college, my freshman English teacher was not real appreciative of my unique writing style and graded me accordingly. Instead of taking writing courses as electives, I con- centrated on more cerebral subjects like badminton and small engine repair. Back in my college days, nestled in a dorm shadowed by the Great Smoky Mountains, I would write letters to my folks back home in Memphis. Back then, as some of you older folks might recall, we wrote letters on paper, stuck 'em in envelopes and mailed them to our loved ones. There were no personal computers to send emails or fancy cell phones to type short, impersonal text messages to your mum. In the days of vinyl records and leisure suits, college students had to write letters home with paper and pen. I wasn't aware at the time, but once my letters home were read by my foils and siblings, they were forwarded on down to Buda, Texas, for my grandpar- ents to read. Most of my letters were about college life, minus certain events that occurred on Saturday nights in local taverns, or describing the breathtak- ing beauty of the Smokies in autumn. I might add some commentary on a recent gridiron victory of the Tennessee Volunteers or mention what I carved up in anatomy lab, but often I would write about things I observed from a perch upon a campus hilltop or a window seat in my favorite cafeteria. After graduation and my eventual return to the Lone Star State, my writing was tucked away in a cluttered closet FROM THE while I concentrated on making a liv- ing and raising a family. My stationery turned yellow, and my pens went to school in my daughters' backpacks. I simply stopped writing. Then, back in the early '90s, I was convinced it was time to buy some gadget called a Macintosh computer. Apparently, a home computer was essential for the girls' education, so I agreed to buy one. Maybe it would come with Solitaire so I can use it when I get really bored. Over time, our family took the on-ramp and drove onto the Interact Highway. We upgraded and download- ed, booted and bumed, even suffered a crash or two. We had entered the 21st century, and I soon discovered the art of emailing. With my two callused index fingers, I found myself typing up letters and "mailing" them to friends and fam- ily. Sometimes, after a few cold bever- ages, I might write up a nonsensical tale and send it to family members just for fun. Then on one winter night, at a family dinner back in 2007, the literary world collided with a rogue asteroid from a galaxy called the Crow's Nest. Over a chimichanga and a few Mexi- can martinis, my uncle, Bob Barton, publisher and head honcho of the Hays Free Press at the time, informed me that he had read all those letters I wrote back in my college days, and he thought I had a real knack for writing. He had also read some of the recent emails that I had written and thought some were fit for publishing. After informing our waitress, "No more drinks for Bob," I realized he was drinking tea and was dead serious. Bob wanted me to write a column for his newspaper. I never thought of myself as a writer. Mark Twain was a writer. Hemingway and Steinbeck were writers. Woodward and Bernstein were writers. What I do is pure nonsense. I just get a warped idea and start pecking on a sticky keyboard. My motto has always been: "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle them with bull." If you ask what writers had the most influence on my style of writing, I'd have to say Dave Barry and John Kelso, with some assistance from Jack Daniels and Jose' Cuervo. I often wondered what Uncle Bob saw in my inscribed insanity that kept appearing in his weekly newspaper. Whatever it was, he would tell me that my stories made him laugh out loud. Every time I saw Bob, his eyes would sparkle and a huge grin would cover his face, and he would tell me how much he loves my writing. Last week, I lost my biggest fan. Others would tell me how they like my column, but no one would say it with the sincerity and enthusiasm as Bob. Perhaps, he and I shared some mutated gene that allowed us to enjoy warped humor. I suspect other family members possess this gene but rel~xess it to pre~, vent public scandal or ii~arceration. View from the Crow's Nest" was hatched one November night in 2007 by a man who believed I was a writer. Without his gentle arm-twisting, I doubt I would've ventured into writing a newspaper col- umn. So, to all you out there who detest my inanity, or to all y'all who actually like this stuff I write, hey, don't blame me. It's Bob's fault! Bob Barton is laughing at Clint Younts right now. Now, whether it is with Clint- or at Clint- we don't really know. On the morning Bob Barton died, I came home to a vase of yellow roses in the warrnwinter sun on my wooden writing desk- a tribute placed by a man who had come to ac- cept his wife's reverence and fascination with a charismatic, silver-haired orator who had set fire to his woman's heart. Yellow roses were our tradition, and this sad morning, his vase held only 11. The twelvth he had left, in grief and gratitude, at Bob's Burleson Street gate. Stark homage to a man who had set sail to his wife's wings a decade ago. When I met Bob he was steely-eyed and swaggering- post-legislative, post-retirement and a posterboy for the raging yellow dog Democrat Texas is fa- mous for. Always speaking his mind, he was stormy, pacing, throwing his head back, laughing at the irony, pondering the possibilities. He was a gust. A gale. I was a slate, caught up in the whirl- wind. Bob was provocative and pre- emptive and persistent. He channeled this passion, and the words in me hit the pages of his newspaper with a focus and a force to be reckoned with. It surprised us both. And when the heat of my writing drew hostility and hysterics and newspaper subscription cancelations, I recoiled in regret. He just laughed, saying, "If you don't make someone mad at least once a day, you're not doing your job." Absolutely unfazed, he retreated to his battered yellow legal pad as I typed out another column, lust another Sunday afternoon in a dusty old Hays Free Press building. He was always scheming, drawing me in. "Find me maps with precinct lines. Locate sites for these Obama signs. Lease me a place in old town to host local Democrats; Doggett's up. Hays County matters. We can sway this." Ironically, Bob died on the birthdate of one of his heros, Martin Luther King Jr. Like King, Bob took on the challenge of the disenfranchised and disillus- sioned and was a raging voice for the silent. As happenstance would have it, we said our formal farewell to Bob on the birthdate of another one of his heros. A woman that made him spit nails and shake the rafters with his laughter in the same encounter. With a mind for statistics and an acute eye for detail, Lila Knight held Bob's feet to the fire, fed him accurate county-wide information and a healthy dose of town gossip. They were volitile, evocative and mind-numbingly exhausting, all at once. A formidable pair, they were unabash- edly dedicated to the prosperity of Hays County. We lost a native son, she lost a comrade. Last Saturday moming, in the old rock gym, we all fought back tears and gave way to laughter as Bob's family, friends, politicians and professors paid hom- mage to a man that had both exasper- ated and enchanted us all. Mariachis twanged, a 21-gun salute rang out and the mournful wail of taps pierced the thick gray air as we said our goodbyes. Wandering down the hill from the memorial, I glanced up at the weathered Obama '08 sign still tethered to my fence post. I remembered Bob telling the story of when he first heard that someone had bought the old Schwartz place down- town, he hopped in his truck and drove by to see who had landed in Kyle. Seeing a tattered 'Americans for Peace" sign newly hammered to the wayward pickets out front, even before we had unpacked our furniture, he figured we were okay, or at least Demo- crats. That was Bob. Always looking for the greater good. And that single yellow rose of Texas left in a gracious moment of grief the day Bob died, speaks to the gratitude that we all feel for this good man. Peace, Bob. And thanks. I'il think of you when it thunders. COMMENTS FROM THE WEBSITE Bull noodles! We have a hard enough time demanding transparency from the knuckle heads in Washington who have made special interest an art form. We CAN demand open government from our munici- palities and if they don't like it we WILL appoint, hire and vote into office someone who understands. - Chris S on the Kyle city at- torney nixing the Friday letter I think MIKE she wants to fire the whole of the administa- tion staff and recall the council members :-) there are many things regarding the city that one could blow up and demand action on this is NOT one of them - John Atkins on Kyle City Council violating the Open Meetings Act Horrible leadership to put it off for so long. They rolled out the red carpet for developers to throw up cheap, cookie- cutter houses in every pasture and now don't want to fund the roads needed for their residents. Appalling. ' - Colin Strother from Face- book on Kyle road bond vote by city council (Editor's Note: Since this com- ment was posted, the Kyle City Council voted unanimously to proceed with putting the road bond on the May election ballot) MANAGEMENT BARTON PUBLICATIONS, INC. Publisher Cyndy Slovak-Barton NEWSROOM Editor Cyndy Slovak-Barton Sports Repo~er Moses Leoslll Features & Education Editor Kim Hilsenbeck Staff Reporter Andy Sevilla Community Columnists Sandra Grizzle Myrtle Heideman Pauline Tom Columnists Bartee Haile Clint Younts Will Durst John Young Danny Tyree Proofreaders Jane Kirkham Brenda Stewart OFFICE MANAGER Connie Brewer ADVERTISING Tracy Mack Dioni Gomez CIRCULATION/CLASSIFIEDS Suzanne Hallam PRODUCTION Production Mgro David White Assistant Designer Melinda Helt Distdbution Gigi Hayes Pete Sizemore Contact Us: FAX: 512-268-0262 BUDA 512-295-9760 KYLE 512-268-7862 METRO AUSTIN 512-262-6397 113 W. Center Street Kyle, Texas 78640 +