News

We'll have links to past events, minutes, other news here
  • Thanks to everyone for attending and providing great ideas during our Heart of Lakeway Town Hall Meeting last night. With the table configuration we had selected for our discussions, we had a full house of about 60 last night. (We knew that many of the Town Hall “regulars” would be out of town.)

    The topic for last night’s meeting was what we wanted to see done in Lakeway – publicly or privately – over the next six months. After some initial discussion and another straw poll on whether we wanted the city to promote tourism (a resounding no), we set up informal groups around the tables and gathered ideas. Each table then sent a representative to the microphone with their ideas.

    Here is a full list, including those that Greg raised at the beginning of the evening:

    1. Provide better communication of city council meetings, candidacy deadlines, and election times
    2. Provide information on a daily basis to residents via electronic or manual message boards near key intersections in the city
    3. Find better ways to communicate with younger families in the city (especially via social media).
    4. Offer city internships for high school students
    5. Have Parks & Recreation Committee host “Lakeway family fun” events
    6. Staff both public and private volunteer corps (outside of standard committees and commissions)
    7. THM group should monitor changes regarding proposed land developments
    8. Hotel Occupancy Tax (all or some):
      • Repeal and find good uses for the $4 million already collected
      • Determine best ways to use tax proceeds to help community
      • Limit out-of-town events to one-day events from time to time
    9. Review city’s professional staff to consider upgrades where appropriate
    10. Ensure uniformity in code enforcement and permitting
    11. Deer management:
      • Conduct biological studies and pursue alternative means of herd management
      • Position traffic warning signs near high deer impact areas
      • End inhumane deer management methods
    12. Town Hall Meetings:
      • Find free location
      • Have city waive meeting room fee requirement
      • Meet at City Hall (without charge)d. Schedule Town Halls a few days before each regularly scheduled Council meeting (to alert council as to what residents view as issues)
    13. Promote vocational training in community and schools
    14. Make volunteering with the city easier (shorter application forms, more notice of openings, etc.)
    15. Establish committee to audit new police headquarters expenditures
    16. Purchase land west of Highlands tract for a city park
    17. Construct public bathroom near Live Oak tennis courts
    18. Regulate household noise from leaf and grass blowers, etc.
    19. Be willing to compromise as a community (not “my way or else”)

    At some point, we will need to winnow these down to a few top choices, but for now would you please let me know if we made any mistakes on the list itself?

    After the groups announced their issues list, we heard a report on deer issues from Rita Cross and then some remarks from our new mayor, Sandy Cox.

    Special thanks go to those who helped underwrite this last meeting - Rita and Dave Cross, Lou Kilgore, George Blume, John Lynch, Niall Swan, and Gil Johnson.

    We appreciate everyone who attended (and those who could not) and what you contribute to our community in Lakeway. Our next meeting will be Thursday, July 19, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

    Have a great weekend!
    Judy

  • Lakeway Gets Closer to Finalizing Election Procedures

    Based on an email from the City yesterday evening, the City of Lakeway has apparently made some decisions on how to handle election procedures for today’s election day and, potentially, the next two elections. I say “apparently” because no ordinance has been passed yet, pending both another confirmatory Secretary of State memo and a city council meeting vote. It’s election day at 4 pm and they still don’t have everything buttoned up!

    For today’s election, one winning candidate will receive a two-year term (filling the current Keith Trecker seat) and one will receive a one-year term (filling the current Jim Powell seat). Which winning candidate will receive which term? We don’t know yet, which seems odd since we will have election results tonight. We presume that the highest vote-getter will receive a two-year term and the second-highest vote-getter will receive a one-year term.

    The city said that two seats will be up for election in November (Hennagin’s and Haley’s) – those will receive 18-month terms. Based on revised Secretary of State guidance, the last two seats (Bertram’s and Massa’s) will be up for election next May – each of the winners will receive two-year terms. It is certainly possible that we will be able to amend the charter (properly, this time, we hope) before at least one of those elections, so things may change.

    While those solutions sound like brokered results (and they may be, since the original Secretary of State memo required that all remaining four city council seats be up for election this November), they largely give effect to the “voiding” of the disastrous 2014 charter amendments.

    This whole election mess has been disquieting, to say the least. Our election integrity has been badly bruised. Let’s work to come together and fix all of this with good charter amendments as soon as we can. If none of the charter amendments up for vote today are passed, we can do that reasonably soon.

  • Does Election Integrity Matter?

    In a representative democracy like Lakeway, the residents are given direct control on two elements of government: (1) election of the mayor and city council and (2) the contents of the city charter.  The mayor and city council ran roughshod over both of those resident rights earlier this week.  What’s worse, no one seemed to care.

    On Monday night, the city council voted to “suspend” the November 2014 charter amendments passed by the voters.  That should concern you, even if that artifice (suggested as a practical, if awkward, solution by the Texas Secretary of State) is actually replaced by the legal reality that the charter amendments were void from the start.  (Due to the inept management of the city, the November 2014 amendments ran counter to the Texas constitution and should never have been implemented.) But that’s not what the council had in front of them – they thought they should “suspend” a charter provision that you voted on just because a Texas government agency thought it might be a good idea to do so, to solve a problem that a prior council created for us back in 2014.

    If messing with the charter was not enough, the council then turned their attention to the integrity of the election and your voting rights.  Early voting started Monday, and mail-in ballots preceded that. Even so, the council was fine with going ahead with an election in which voters were not even told what the term of office would be.  It would be interesting to ask voters what they thought – was it three years, two years or one year?  Each of those may prove to be right at some point in this election cycle.

    As of this writing, we have not received written confirmation regarding (i) whether the new mayor will have a one-year term, as suggested by the Texas Secretary of State, or (ii) how many of the new council members will have a full two-year term in front of them.  If the city follows the methodology of the Secretary of State, only one of the new council members should have a full two-year term (while the other has a one-year term).  The ordinance that the Council passed on Monday night does not cover those questions.

    If you want to know how the Secretary of State methodology applies to each council member (assuming the information provided by the city Monday night is correct), go to the bottom of this email.  We support that methodology.  (The Secretary of State advisory memo confirmed what Judy had reported last week.  If you want a copy, let us know.)

    What really bothered Judy and me about Monday night’s city council meeting is that no one else stood up for the integrity of our election process.  Apparently, any fix was a good fix as long as we could put all of this behind us.  (I am reminded of the Lewis Carroll quote: “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”) For 98% of the meeting - except the last couple of minutes when a couple of council members threw out bromides about protecting the citizens - all we heard were council members, and perhaps others, concerned about whether their terms would be shortened or eliminated, whether they would be indemnified against election lawsuits and whether the city would be sued.

    I asked a friend and accomplished election attorney what he thought of our city’s election quagmire.  He said it was the biggest election mess he has ever seen.  He said that a suit contesting the upcoming election to protect the process would likely be successful and that the remedy that the judge would select would be something on the order of what is suggested above by the Secretary of State (i.e., new council elections, shorter terms), until the charter could be properly amended.  The cost to the plaintiff and the city could be in the range of $50-75,000 each.

    Given that Judy and I really like the idea of shorter terms, even the one-year terms suggested by the Secretary of State, and given that it would allow us – the voters – to decide as soon as possible on what the charter should actually look like, at this point we don’t think an election contest makes sense for anyone.  It certainly does not make sense for a candidate who is selfishly upset at losing an election.  Let’s just make sure the city gets this next charter amendment right, whenever we as a city can do it.  That starts with an open process for charter review.  Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.

    Greg
    * * *
    Here’s the full chart of the current city council members.  Although the mayor is not listed here, you may be interested to know that the Secretary of State (SOS) believes that Joe Bain was never properly elected as mayor.

    Name

    End of current term
    (actually, SOS says they are holdovers, at best)

    Remaining term (assuming the SOS methodology)

    Jim Powell (seat on current ballot)
    Elected 2013
    Holdover 2015
    Holdover 2017

    May 2019

    One year

    Keith Trecker (seat on current ballot)
    “Elected” 2016

    May 2018

    None

    Dwight Haley
    Elected 2014
    Holdover 2016

    May 2018

    None

    Jean Hennagin
    “Elected” 2016

    May 2018

    None

    Ron Massa
    “Elected” 2015
    “Re-elected” 2017

    May 2019

    One year

    Bridge Bertram
    “Elected” 2015
    “Re-elected” 2017

    May 2019

    One year

    Looking at the chart above, you could argue that the Trecker, Haley and Hennagin seats should have been the ones to be filled this May, but there’s way too much water under the bridge on that at this point.  The Secretary of State recommends that ALL of the other council seats be subject to election this November.  The remaining term would be the initial term available for those elected.

    This email may upset some folks, so I’d better be careful and say Pol Adv by Judy Holloway campaign, even though I would have written this email in any case.

  • A new world for elections in Lakeway

    If you think you’ve heard everything on the quagmire that is the election process in Lakeway, you haven’t heard anything yet. It gets even more complicated.

    We are in a different world, election-wise, now than where we were before the city went to staggered, three-year terms. (By the way, Lakeway, how did we let that happen? We must have all been asleep during that charter vote.)

    By going to three-year terms a few years ago, new parts of the Texas Constitution became applicable, requiring all elections to be decided by a majority vote (not a plurality, which is how Lakeway elections were decided). So that means that last year’s election of Massa and Bertram was not done properly. And it means that this year’s mayoral and city council elections will not be proper either, unless we move to a majority vote threshold.

    But there’s more. We have been told that, in order to have majority voting for multiple council positions, each council member must run for a “Place” or “District” so that only one winner (not two) will come from each Place or District. (By the way, the place or district can still be at-large, meaning there do not have to be geographic boundaries in Lakeway.) It’s too late in the election process merely to assign Places or Districts to the candidates to fix this issue. State officials may need to weigh in on this.

    I believe we need a solution that works for the Secretary of State (whose role is purely advisory) and possibly the Attorney General, to protect the voters of this city. We have already had at least one election that did not meet the requirements of the State Constitution. As for Massa and Bertram, this issue was not caused by them, but I think we need new, proper elections to fill those seats, as well.

    The Texas Constitution lays out a path that will be hard to follow, given where we are. It's clearly not something that can simply be agreed to by the candidates or even the city council.

    Another thing - we have been told that none of the upcoming elections can simply be cancelled (even though, we believe (for the reasons addressed above), the city council election could be invalid), but we need to get the word out to everyone to vote "no" on all of the charter propositions. Why? Well, the Texas Constitution says that a city cannot amend its charter more than once in a two-year period. If we do not vote “no” on all the charter provisions, we might have to wait two more years to fix our election problems.

    In the meantime, we should begin a new charter review, by a new charter review committee that, this time, includes attorneys from the community that can help guide the analysis. This will be an important committee, and significant transparency and resident input will be required. Perhaps we can return to two-year, non-staggered terms and make this easier for everyone!

    I know this was a lot of information, based on what we are hearing from election experts. If it changes, we will let you know...

    Judy

  • Hotel Occupancy Tax Made Easy – or Something Like That

    Background

    There has been a fair amount of confusion recently regarding Lakeway’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, which is understandable, since it’s a very complex law that’s been on the books since the 1950s.  Lakeway signed up for it in 2012 or so.  I call it the HO Tax.

    I have been harping about this law and its pitfalls for many years now. You can ask Greg how many times I would wake him up in the middle of the night with “Can you believe that this law allows [fill in the blank]?”  Greg finally got around to reading it a few months ago and he said, “Holy cow, this thing is a mess!”

    It is indeed a mess of pork barrel politics.  And Lakeway now has over $4 million of HO Tax funds in the bank.  TexArts has received a pretty good chunk of the HO Tax money over the years and they are asking for more (about $50,000) at the City Council meeting tonight.  There’s nothing wrong with TexArts, mind you, but their leadership has included (at different times, perhaps, although we are not sure) Sandy Cox and Haythem Dawlett, so we thought we should take a closer look.

    The Requirements

    In its simplest form, the HO Tax is a tax that hotel guests pay as a percentage of their hotel room charge.  The hotels collect it and then send the proceeds on to the appropriate city, county or state authority.

    For a city like Lakeway, there are two main requirements regarding expenditures of tax funds:

    First, they must directly enhance and promote tourism AS WELL AS the convention and tourism industry. Second, they must fall into one of the nine categories that the law permits:

    1. Convention centers (including building them)
    2. Convention registration expenses
    3. Advertising to promote conventions and tourism
    4. Promotion of the arts
    5. Historical restoration or preservation
    6. Certain sporting event expenses in smaller counties
    7. Enhancement or upgrade of sports facilities (in cities that may include Lakeway, although Lakeway is not named)
    8. Transportation for tourists
    9. Tourism-related signage

    Each category has to drive the convention and tourism business.  Lakeway couldn’t just build a new sports field, for example.

    Lakeway Did What?

    Would it surprise you to learn that our City of Lakeway asked the Texas Attorney General whether the City could use HO Tax funds to (1) build a performing arts center connected with a hotel and (2) pay for a related feasibility study?
    Well, the City did just that!  The Texas Attorney General addressed Lakeway’s inquiry in a January 30, 2017 formal opinion letter that can be read here:

    https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/opinions/51paxton/op/2017/kp0131.pdf

    On the first question, the Attorney General said, no, you can’t build a PAC.  You can only build a convention center.

    On the second question, the Attorney General did not reach a conclusion, but seemed to imply that it might not meet the standards of the HO Tax law.

    So, we now have a few questions of our own – why was Lakeway asking about a PAC (in August 2016, it appears) and a related feasibility study in the first place?  And, in the next Texas Legislative session, is the City going to seek a change to the HO Tax law to allow a PAC to be built?

    Certain Spending Features of the HO Tax Funds

    According to the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association: “[T]here is no time limit for a city to expend all of its hotel occupancy tax funds. At a minimum, however, state law does require that for cities with a seven percent local hotel tax rate, at least one-seventh of the hotel tax proceeds must be spent advertising and promoting the city to directly impact tourism and the hotel and convention industry.”

    Furthermore, the THLA says: “[A] city with a population of under 125,000 may not expend more than the greater of either 15 percent of the hotel occupancy tax revenue collected or the amount of tax received by the city at the rate of 1 percent of the cost of a room on promotion of the arts.  Additionally if a city with a population of under 125,000 does not allocate any hotel tax money for a convention center, the Tax Code prohibits the city from allocating more than 50 percent of its hotel occupancy tax for historical restoration or preservation projects.”  We have heard the city talk about different percentages, but we are not sure where they get them.  It’s entirely possible there is something buried in this law that we have not found yet.

    So What Do You Think?

    Should we fund TexArts again?  Should we repeal this law entirely?  Where will Lakeway find a use for all of the funds in a city whose residents (us) do not really want to promote tourism?  Let us know what you think!

    Judy

    Although I think this is an information piece, part of my city council campaign calls for the repeal of the HO Tax so I’d better sign off with “Pol. Adv. by Judy Holloway” to meet the rules…

  • Proposition B (“B is bad”)
    • By paying them $1.00 (or $1.50) per meeting, Prop B takes city council and mayor off the hook for their own bad acts (like slander) against residents and others
    • They are already covered by insurance (city didn’t tell you that)
    • City is already immune from suit (city didn’t make that clear, either), so Prop B protects city council and mayor and hurts residents
    Here’s why B is bad:
    1. The council and mayor are already PROTECTED from suits like slander - according to Julie Oakley, the city has insurance for them. We weren’t told this.
    2. When the council and the mayor are paid, they become IMMUNE TO SUIT from certain actions (like slander) under Texas law. You can’t sue them even if you are slandered.
    3. The city is already IMMUNE TO SUIT. So you can’t sue them either.
    4. Thanks to Prop B, the council and the mayor get off scott-free (when they were already protected by insurance) and the residents completely lose out. It’s a bad deal. And we weren’t told all the facts by the city or the charter review committee.
    Now, how do you feel about that?
  • 10 April, 2019 - GOOD NEWS: ***Legend Communities PUD Report (Heart of Lakeway Development)***

    It was great to see ZAPCO reject the Legend Communities PUD proposal earlier this week on a 4-2 vote.  It’s unclear whether the city council will take up the issue on their own at the April 16 city council meeting, but we will alert you when the April 16 agenda is posted.  We have been told that, notwithstanding the ZAPCO rejection, the city council can approve the project with a 75% super-majority vote, requiring 6 of 7 council members. (We're still looking for the provision in the charter or ordinances about that.  Has anyone else found it?)

    ZAPCO and the city council will meet in joint session to discuss signage regulations this Wednesday (the 11th) – as they had previously announced – but their filed agendas show that no action will be taken at that joint session.

    Here is the link to the meeting: https://lakewaytx.swagit.com/play/04042018-666

  • March 29, 2018 - Mayoral Forum
    We're sorry that many folks could not find a seat, due to the packed house. We weren't told until yesterday that the rooms on either side were available, at the cost of $100 per hour per room. Judy and I had already put around $250 into the event and that was enough for us. There was not enough time to ask some of y'all for extra funds for this event, even though several of y'all have been very generous in hosting all or some of the prior town halls.
    We'd be interested to hear what your thoughts are on the forum itself. Which candidate do you think did the best? Did anyone surprise you?
    Have a great Easter and get ready for the ZAPCO meeting next Wednesday morning!
    Greg and Judy
  • March 23, 2018 - Proposed Lakeway city center raises concerns
    LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) - More and more cities across the country are turning to mixed-use developments....
    Click here to read the story