City’s redistricting plans on hold a little longer￼
By Kyle Mooty
The Lockhart City Council is giving at least up to April 5 for someone to present a more viable plan for the city’s redistricting voting districts (four Councilmember districts and two at-large Councilmembers).
Syd Falk of Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, & Acosta, LLP, addressed the council last week with a proposed new map, which was necessary after the 2020 Census. State law requires the most populated district to be no more than 10 percent different than the least populated district.
“The 2020 census shows that we are slightly out of balance,” Falk said. “District 2 is the most populous district, growing 8.6 percent. District 3 is the most under populated district. Districts 2 and 3 touch each other and we may just have to adjust the boundary of those two.”
The proposed new map was satisfactory to all of the Councilmembers, but all agreed to table the vote on a new map following a public hearing at its next meeting of the City Council, three weeks from its March 15 meeting.
Philip Ruiz opposed the plan provided the council but offered no other option.
“Redistricting should be postponed until additional input is provided to the citizens of Lockhart, specifically the Black and Hispanic minority groups here in town and an opportunity be given to them to propose alternate maps,” Ruiz said. “We’d like them to have an opportunity to come up with a better plan than what you have here. I can see problems with them already. I believe the City can do better. The main thing I’m here to see is that any redistricting alternatives reflect the communities of color and insure representation of minority voters.”
However, Falk and Lockhart Mayor Lew White each noted that the Hispanic population would increase in both affected districts of the new map.
“We want to include all citizen input,” White said. “We don’t want anyone to feel like they are losing their representation.”
Councilmember Juan Mendoza said feedback he had received noted the prison population in District 1 was causing low voter turnout.
Councilmember Brad Westmoreland added, “This is probably the best solution we can come up with right now with what we have to work with.”
The election is in November and the city must decide by July 22 so the candidates for City Council can file beginning of the next day.
Councilmember Kara McGregor said she was in favor of giving citizens other maps they can view.
“We’re making sure voices of color are heard,” Councilmember David Bryant said. “Also, I’m open if other citizens have other ideas we haven’t thought about. I was in favor for what was presented because it seemed the easiest route and at the same time it didn’t make a huge shift where voices were not represented.”
In other business:
Mike Brooks, a CPA for BrooksWatson & Co. PLLC, gave the City a glowing report on its financial update.
“The city prepared a comprehensive financial report, which was a lot of useful information,” Brooks said. “It’s more extension than a typical financial report. They have excelled in financial reporting for two years. The City should certainly be commended for this achievement.
“Most importantly, we issued a clean unmodified opinion on the city’s financials. That’s the best of four possible outcomes. That is the highest level of assurance that we can give that these financials are free of any material misstatement.”
Brooks said Lockhart has total assets of $46,946,537 with total revenue of $12.9 million.
“You’re looking at a healthy ending fund balance,” Brooks said.
City Attorney Monte Akers gave his first report of work on a new Code of Ethics policy for City Officer, Officials, and Employees.
“Prior to the seventies, many ethics matters were a matter of common law, meaning the courts determined whether conflicts of interest had occurred,” Akers said. “That led to a hodgepodge of decisions. Since the seventies, many ethics laws were passed, including open meetings and open records. For the last 20 years much more ethics policies have been passed by cities. It has been a revolving door process.”
Akers noted that a disclaimer would be needed for city officers, officials, and employees on their personal social media platforms that said they are representing only themselves and not the City of Lockhart.
Officers are the mayor and councilmembers, officials are members of boards and commissions, and employees are employees of the city.
A contract between the City of Lockhart and the Lockhart Soccer Youth Association (LASA) is set to expire March 24.
Public Works Director Sean Kelley said LASA wanted the authorization to rent the field to groups other than non-profits, and for the city to provide insect prevention on a quarterly basis rather than annually.
An ultimate frisbee league has approached LASA regarding using the field.
City Manager Steve Lewis said the city should “tap on the brakes and have a more in-depth discussion” regarding the agreement.
Mayor Lew White said COVID-19 numbers “continue to dwindle and many mask restrictions are being lifted in many areas. We still have options for testing and vaccinations.”
Hector and Maria Rangel have been running a convenience store at 604 E. Market Street, a store that has been in operation since 1965. The property is zoned residential, and it resorted to that while the business was closed during COVID-19. The Rangels asked the council to move the zoning to commercial to keep it in operation. The Council voted unanimously in the store’s favor.
Titan Development has purchased 11.82 acres in the Lockhart Industrial Park III, and Titan is already working with a client interested in a 154,440-square foot facility on the tract.
Courthouse Nights will return to Lockhart. The council approved the free monthly concert event beginning April 15 from 7-10 p.m. and lasting every third Friday until October. Parts of Market Street and Commerce Street will be closed on those nights.
A city-wide cleanup is set for Saturday, April 30 beginning at 8 a.m. Bulky item charges will not be applicable on appliances (washers, dryers, stoves), carpeting (less than 5-feet long), furniture, scrap metal (less than 4-feet long), treated wood, and mattresses.