ISSUE #7: May City Council Race & Affordable Housing with a Twist

Fredericksburg City Council Race Shaping Up

by Heath Bell

In the aftermath of the 2022 Primaries, City Council, School Board, and General Elections, it’s easy to forget that there are elections coming up in May 2023. The FISD School Board and Fredericksburg City Council are having their off-year elections; the Council is electing 2 City Council members for a 2-year term. The reader may recall last year’s Council election was quite crowded, with 3 candidates running for Mayor, and 4 running for the 2 Council seats. This one may shape up to be even more so.

First, going into the election, one of the sure things we knew was that Councilman Bobby Watson would run for a third consecutive term. Watson has actually been on the Council since 2014, serving 2 terms beginning in 2014 and 2016, then serving another 2 terms beginning in 2019 and 2021. That’s 8 years and 4 terms total (not counting 2018, which was his gap year), so this race would grant Watson a prospective fifth term.

If anyone knows the history of the Fredericksburg City Council, one knows that if a Councilor loses one election, that usually means they won’t be gone for long. For example, former Mayor Tom Musselman, who presided over one of the most infamous Mayor terms in Fredericksburg’s history, went on to win a race for City Council just six years after his loss to Jeryl Hoover in 2012. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that former Mayor and City Councilman Charlie Kiehne filed to run for a third term on the Council, having served 2 terms beginning in 2016 and 2018, having then been elected Mayor in 2020.

Current Councilwoman Sharon Joseph has also curiously filed to run for a full term on the Council, having been appointed in May 2022 after Kathy O’Neill stepped down. The reader may recall at that time, the voters of Fredericksburg asked Mayor Hoover and the new Council to appoint the runner-up of the May elections to O’Neill’s open position. However, the Council appointed Joseph to the position instead, coming as a shock to the public. At the time, Mayor Hoover listed a number of qualifications for his appointment in order to explain his position. These were all great qualifications: someone known in the community as a public servant, with a history of working with the council, and with great professional connections. However, a key qualification (and likely the reason why the appointment was finally trusted) was that this person would “only want to serve out the unexpired term to serve on Council”. Hoover went on to say that this seat would be an open seat in 2023, that Watson would be the only incumbent, and that a new candidate could run for the seat. Evidently, Mayor Hoover was wrong about Joseph’s fulfilling this particular qualification.

Curiously, the City of Fredericksburg’s archive of the May 27th, 2022 Special City Council Meeting seems to have been deleted. Luckily, there is an excerpt of Mayor Hoover’s comments available here, posted by the Fredericksburg Neighborhood Coalition. Also, just in case there would need to be another backup of this meeting, I have created one myself from the the Coalition’s video.

The reader may notice that there is a shortage of new faces, those who are not veterans of the City government, but are coming in with the attempt to make a change and bring a fresh perspective to the Council. There had been an announcement from another candidate, but it seems he has ended his campaign. Thus, I’ll end with this: if you also feel the Council needs a new face, the last day to file is February 17th, and the City’s info is here!

Affordable Housing, but Not for Us

by Amy Heimann

It is a fun experiment to try remembering what the major news story of two years ago was in Gillespie County. Or three, or five, or pick a number of years. Not too long ago, the incoming Kinder Morgan Pipeline was on the front of every property-minded individual, with whole pages in the Fredericksburg Standard devoted to the subject.

Then the discussion was overtaken by the proposed “relief route” passing through property on the southeast and southwest portions of Fredericksburg (or was that prior to the pipeline?). Those topics are all but forgotten now that the focus has been planted on the increase of STRs and the affordable housing campaign for working professionals.

The tale has been repeated often: local businesses are struggling to hire, there are not enough teachers, property values/taxes are going up, people are moving out of the area because they cannot afford to live here, the housing supply is decreasing with the demands for accommodating tourism, builders cannot construct new residences because of inflation, and so it goes. The seeming answer to the problem of a small local workforce is split between 1) reducing STRs to free up owner-occupied dwellings and 2) creation of new housing. If these ideas will indeed prove beneficial, than some area residents may be pleased with the incoming complex at 161 Friendship Lane. These “Woodland Cottages”, expected to be finished sometime next year according to its website, are single-family homes designed to surround a clubhouse, fitness center, and swimming pool.

But there’s a catch. The Cottages are reserved for senior living. So the question I ask is this: Will senior-only new builds do anything to help the housing and employment problems or will this project’s effects simply be a destruction of grazing land and a drain on the aquafer? To attempt an educated guess at the answer, one must analyze some data.

The total number of housing units is somewhere around 5,500-6,000, with the Fredericksburg Standard reporting on the low side in their 4 January 2023 issue, and Census Reporter estimating 6,200. The U.S. Census Bureau declares that 64.2% of these units are owner-occupied, leaving 35.8% as rentals. The Standard described 24% of the total residential lots being “on the books” STRs, which would be about 68% of the non-owner-occupied dwellings. While the population of Gillespie County grew about 9.4% between the 2010 and 2020 censuses, the population of Fredericksburg only increased about 2.6% (300 or so people). As a side note, it is true that the county swelled in numbers during the coronavirus hype: the population went up 2.1% between first quarter 2020 and first quarter 2021, compared with the yearly average increase of only 0.9%. The median (not average!) age of Fredericksburg residents is 51, with only half of all residents falling in the 18-64 year old age bracket. Nearly 32% of residents are 65 or older. This is slightly less in the county, with just shy of 30% being 65 or older. Nevertheless, the 65+ group was the most rapidly growing age bracket in the past decade, going up a whopping 21% since 2010.

To combine resident unit statistics with an age factor: 47.5% of Fredericksburg households have one or more people aged 65 or older. And lastly, 13% of households in 2021 had moved in the previous year. Seven percent from elsewhere in the county and less than seven percent came in from outside the county. A final piece of data that would be helpful in predicting the future of this case is how many people move out of Fredericksburg each year/decade and what age are they? Are they entirely 18-25 year olds leaving their parents’ homes for bigger dreams in the city? Or are they households leaving property behind on the real estate market? Or are people leaving town at all? This information is quite elusive, unfortunately.

What can be deduced from the information above? A) About one in every four housing units in this city are not available for long-term residence. B) The Fredericksburg area of Gillespie County continues to bear the moniker of a “retirement community” with half of its population over the age of 50. Also note that about 20% of residents are minors who are not very likely to own a house. C) The vast majority of people do not move around after settling here.

So theoretically, an increase in houses on Friendship Lane specifically for the fast-increasing age population might ease the home search for younger households wishing to plant roots, but only if the 65+ crowd is willing to move. It may be safe to assume that if 87% of people do not move between 78624 neighborhoods, then Woodland Cottages will eventually be filled with out-of-town incomers instead of current residents deciding to put their established homes up for sale. If an average of 30 people move to Fredericksburg per year, less that that will be eligible for the Woodland Cottages, diverting only a few from the larger market. My conclusion: the construction and sale of Woodland Cottages will probably not do much to alleviate the housing shortage here. What do you think?

Also, This:

TikTok Challenge Demonstrates How to Steal Cars for a Joyride. Seeming to begin in the Milwaukee area and still spreading across the nation, is a trend in automobile thefts of unlocked Kia and Hyundai vehicles. Videos show thieves removing a cowl under the steering column and starting the cars with a USB cord. Some videos also show these thieves purposefully crashing or flipping the stolen cars. The NYPD reports a 50% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts since the TikTok challenge was posted.

CDC to Investigate Pfizer COVID Vaccines. The organization’s Vaccine Safety Datalink met the statistical criteria for possible correlation between the Bivalent vaccine and ischemic stroke in people 65 and older. The Journal for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases published an article already in June of 2022 reviewing reports of four different types of stokes associated with COVID-19 vaccines, stating in the meanwhile that cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) may be more severe in patients having received a COVID vaccine. Even before that, in September 2021, the Journal of the Neurological Sciences published a review on vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) following COVID vaccinations. Of the 49 patients featured in the review, 49% suffered cerebral hemorrhage and 39% died due to CVST or VITT. It should be noted that contracting COVID-19 naturally has been found to raise stroke risk by 3-6 times in the month following infection and that the CDC has not altered their recommendations on vaccinations.

Louisiana Law Goes Into Effect, Treating Online Porn Cites Like Brick-and-Mortar Stores. The bill, enacted in early January, requires online websites/businesses with 33.3% or more of content being pornographic to check the age of visitors hailing from the Pelican State. When the porn sites detect an attempted user from Louisiana, the website is now required by law to validate the user’s age via a driver’s license number, credit card information, or an app. Only users verified to be 18 years of age or older will be able to enter and access content. Senator Mike Lee from Utah has proposed a similar bill to the U.S. Congress (SCREEN Act), which would require porn sites to adopt age-verification practices for all users in the country. The United Kingdom and France have already put their own versions of this law into effect.

Book Review

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch by Julia Brewer Daily

Local Fredericksburg author Julia Daily published her first two novels last year, more recently the fictional The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch, taking place in present day West Texas. This novel, which has an unprecedented plotline, focuses on Emma Rosales, the young heiress to a million acre Texas ranch. Using flashbacks and different points of view, Daily rapidly creates the backstory of the pressures and aspirations of A&M-graduate Emma thrust unwillingly into a world so unlike her own and the psychological turmoil of her mother, Josie, faced with the “what-ifs” she never allowed to enter her mind.

The riveting and original plot is slightly hurt by the pace of the narrative; with the backstory sprinkled between chapters, readers lose what could have been a great distinction between the easy and predictable life of Emma before galloping into the situation that shakes up her family’s lives forever. Instead, the non-stop pace from cover to cover feels more like a “then this happened, then this happened” with necessary background information thrust into the “real story” disrupting the flow of events. It might not have been wise either to make multiple references to COVID. This will likely prevent the novel from becoming a “go-to” book in generations to come, as it will be forever implanted in the early 2020s. Another area of disappointment was the half-hearted mentions of God in the story. Although both Emma and her mother pray at various points, the answers are unattended and no praise is given to God for granting their requests. Daily chooses to forgo a wonderful opportunity of developing Josie’s faith when she comes to the realization that her ranch has been her idol.

Nevertheless, this clever book will leave you thinking about it even when you are required to put a bookmark in and get stuff accomplished before returning to finish. (Although it is such a rapid read, one could go technically through it in a single sitting.) Could this story actually happen? Could something similar be true? How would I react if I was in Emma’s place? And finally, what happens next? While not a cliff-hanger, the novel does leave the possibility open for a sequel. The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is for readers who delight in quick, adventure-packed stories, especially those featuring the no-nonsense attitude of Texas (both the state and the people living there). A copy can be ordered from or from Julia Daily’s website. If you see her in HEB, be sure to ask about a sequel.

Die Deutsche Ecke

Nachdem mehrere Punkte der Aussprache für die deutsche Sprache behandelt wurden, wird wir in diesem Monat eine kurze Anmerkung zu dialektischen Unterschieden gemacht.

Within Germany, the most noticeable dialectical difference in speaking is the “ch”. Certain words require a hard sound (IPA /x/) like in Bach or Buch. But following other vowels, the grapheme gets soft in Standard German. This soft ending is like the French ‘ҫ’ and is how the first person pronoun ich will end. That’s Standard. Now in the northern or far eastern regions of Germany, folks may use the hard /k/ ending for ich, which sounds halfway between a ‘k’ and a hard ‘g’. In the middle belt of the country, people may say it more like ‘isch’ instead, and many second-language German learners will adopt this pronunciation if they cannot grasp the ‘ҫ’ sound. Indeed, on my last trip to Germany, I met a foreign-born resident in Mainz who tried to “correct” my ich /ɪç/ with his ich /ɪʃ/.

Differences in regional speaking in Germany is as extant as slow Alabaman compared to brisk Bostonian, despite the smallish size of the country. In a memorable class demonstration, my old German teacher played two weather forecast videos, one in hochdeutsch (high/Standard German) and one in neiderdeutsch (low German). The first was perfectly understandable and the second was utterly incomprehensible.

There are several dialectical differences between hochdeutsch and Texas German as well, as is quite reasonable. One, which has already been mentioned (see Issue #4 of the Fulcrum), is the pervasive use of a long ‘a’ vowel sound to replace the “ö”. For example, Koenig Lane in Austin. Or saying ‘dahn keh shAYn’ instead of danke schön. Likewise, the “ä” is usually heard as a short a or short e sound, as evidenced by Schaetter Funeral Home and Ausländer Restaurant. Another difference is how the final “e” of a word gets voiced. In the fatherland, it is a light ‘eh’ sound, but in Texas you will likely hear a long ‘e’ sound. For example, Lochte Feed and General Store. Still another difference is the frequent adding of a ‘sh’ to the “s” consonant. How many times do you hear Stille Nacht versus ‘shtille nacht’? One other humorous modification you can find in Texas has nothing to do with pronunciation. It just happens when people know most of two different languages and often speak both on a daily basis: they end up blending the two languages into the same sentence. Or the same word. Have you heard someone in Fredericksburg say “wasever”? Was = what + ever = ever. I have!

The Good News

Regarding the Feast of Saint Valentine of Rome, Pastor and Martyr

In the third century AD, the name ‘Valentine’ meaning ‘valiant’ or ‘worthy’ was commonly given to sons born in Latin-dominant countries. At least ten Christian Valentines have been formally acknowledged from the period of the early Church, a couple of whom are said to have died or been killed on the fourteenth of February. Two of these are men were arrested and executed in 270 by Emperor Claudius II for their Christian faith. Some historians argue that these two men (Valentine a pastor in Rome and Valentine the bishop of Interamna) are probably the same individual, but the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the martyrs separately on July 6 and July 30, respectively. The Roman Catholic Church lists Valentine among the venerated saints but does not hold a commemoration for him/them in response to the uncertainty. Most other church bodies which acknowledge saints of old remember Valentine on the date of his death in the late winter.

The commonly accepted history of Valentine’s end of life is as follows: Valentine was an evangelist and helper of Christians in a time of strong persecution. While under arrest for proclaiming his faith, the Roman emperor took a liking to Valentine and offered to release him under the condition that he renounce Christ. Rather than taking the chance for freedom, Valentine instead used the opportunity to proclaim the message of the Gospel to Claudius. Outraged, Emperor Claudius sentenced Valentine to death via stoning and beheading.

Tradition holds that on the day of his execution, Valentine wrote a note on an irregularly-shape piece of parchment addressed to his former jailer’s daughter, encouraging her to hold onto the Gospel message he preached. This note is said to have been signed, “from your Valentine.” While this may have been the origin of sending cards and letters to cherished acquaintances on February 14th, is was not until Geoffrey Chaucer published his poem “Parliament of Foules” in 1375, that Saint Valentine’s Day (which had been made a widespread commemoration beginning in the 5th or 6th century) was associated with romance.

Nowadays, the date of Valentine’s martyrdom has been co-opted by the secular world for consumerism aims. Yet many Christians use the calendar notation to remember the saints who faced mortal persecution in the name of their Savior and held fast to Him, secure in the knowledge of their redemption. Grant to us, O Lord, a like faith. Amen.

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