By Kathi Bliss
Routine business drew keen interest on Tuesday evening as the Lockhart City Council discussed language changes to the Lockhart Sign Ordinance.
The changes, according to City Manager Vance Rodgers and City Planner Dan Gibson were largely in response to a recent proliferation of anti-landfill signs cropping up across Lockhart and Caldwell County. Because the signs are not “political” as defined by the existing sign ordinance, city leaders opted to research the laws and ordinances from surrounding areas in order to revise the ordinance so the signs could be enforced by the City.
Specifically, according to City Attorney Peter Gruning, the signs do fall under the category of “political messaging,” and are therefore protected as to their content. However, adding the verbiage defining “political messaging” to the ordinance would allow the city enforcement powers as to the location of the signs (in public rights of way) the size of the signs and other such matters.
Noting concerns that changes to the sign ordinance might restrict residents’ First Amendment Rights, both Mayor Pro Tem John Castillo and Councilmember Juan Mendoza voted against the change, which the other four members of the council supported.
Additionally, the council heard an extensive presentation from Finance Director Jeff Hinson, who is preparing the Council for the budget hearings scheduled later this month.
Although the Council is not planning to increase the tax rate, tax collections will increase, as property values have increased throughout Lockhart.
Area resident Tracy Forrester came forward and encouraged the council to consider changing staffing levels and reviewing city departments and spending, prior to imposing another increase in taxes on the residents.
The Council will hold a public hearing on the budget and tax rate at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2014, in the Council Chambers in the Masonic Annex.