ISSUE #3: Increased Taxes, Railroad Strikes, & Civic Duty

Fredericksburg City Council Increases Taxes, then Changes Meeting Schedule to Tuesdays at 9AM

by Heath Bell

Throughout the summer, the City of Fredericksburg has been working on a new budget for the 2023 fiscal year. The hope of many citizens is that the city would recognize that the previous budget left the city with $8 million more than was spent, and use that chance to lower taxes. In addition, the prospect of accepting federal ARPA funds was touted by the city as a way to avoid raising taxes, despite the risks associated with the agreement. Thus, from an outside perspective, it may seem like the city has two clear options: lower taxes to an accurate budget, or lower taxes a lot with ARPA funds. The city’s final choice may have been surprising, but not to Fredericksburg’s increasingly weary citizens.

For the unaware, Fredericksburg was named the Most Unaffordable Place to Live in Texas in 2019. At that time, it beat even Austin with an average home price above $305,000. In only 3 years since then, the average home price in Fredericksburg has jumped to $411,000. The sheer amount of taxation has leveled business after business, closing local favorites Porky’s & Buffalo Nickel, and now heritage businesses like Dooley’s. In addition, young prospective homebuyers are increasingly priced out of the market, while generational homeowners are forced to flee the city, unable to pay property taxes. With all citizens suffering somehow, it’s becoming increasingly unclear who is actually benefiting from the tax weight, besides the obvious answer: the City bureaucracy.

So when the City decided they would not only raise taxes, but also keep the ARPA funds, those same weary citizens came to the September 19th meeting finalizing the tax rate, some outright begging the City for their livelihood. In the end, the City’s decision, as many have been, was predetermined. But the City didn’t stop there. City Manager Clinton Bailey announced that future City Council meetings would take place on Tuesdays at 9AM, instead of the current Mondays at 6PM. Again, it’s unclear who benefits. This essentially removes anyone with a job, especially the young local workers, from the political process. Going back through the minutes, every Councilor conveniently came to the same conclusion: what if we’re here too late? Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Bobby Watson first proposed the change.

Overall, the future of Fredericksburg is more uncertain than ever. While the YRs have been involved in City politics before, certainly when it involves the budget, the schedule change excludes us from this process. It’s unclear exactly what the path forward is, but one thing is certain: we cannot give up!

Railroad Strike Still a Possibility

by Amy Heimann

The Biden administration was thrown into an emergency 20-hour negotiation at 9pm on Thursday September 15th. The reason for this all-night session was the impending threat of a nationwide railway strike that had manufacturers, businesses, and consumers on edge all month. Such a strike would freeze at least 30% of all cargo freight in the U.S. and eliminate about 50% of commuter rail. Texans might feel the strain acutely, as the state ranks second in the nation in rail car movements. Lacking enough trucking operations to divert shipment, the country would be faced with skyrocketing inflation on food, goods, fuel, and medical supplies, increased product shortages, and potential plant shutdowns just a few weeks shy of the November mid-term elections.

Various railway unions cite harsh and unfair requirements for workers as impetus for a massive strike. Over the past 20 years, the four major freight carriers have increased their operating margins to 40%, during which time their overall workforce has been decreased by 30%. The railways list advancing technology and the desire to cut costs as reason for the elimination of 600,000 positions, despite increased cargo demand in recent years. This reduction of the workforce requires the remaining employees to put in more hours to meet the demand for services. Conductors and engineers are on call nearly 24/7/365 and can receive as little as a 90-minute notice to report for work. Railway workers also claim they are being penalized for taking illness-related leave or requesting off for personal appointments or family emergencies and are currently not allowed any paid or unpaid sick days. The grumbling began over two years ago and feelings of discontent over unreasonable scheduling seems to have swelled since supply-chain workers were deemed “essential” back in 2020.

On the morn of a proposed national strike, Biden’s Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) produced terms written to appease the unions and prevent a shipping crisis. The proposed contract includes an immediate 14.1% wage hike which would grow in the next five years to an overall 24% raise, cash bonuses, a cap on out-of-pocket health care costs, and a clause guaranteeing workers penalty-free time off for certain medical appointments. The PEB plan was enough to temporarily halt a strike, but further negotiations have attached one paid and three unpaid sick days a year to the contract.

The president calls the proposal a big “win” for America, even though the 12 unions involved have not all voted on ratification yet, several are not expected to deem the contract acceptable, and the Railroad Workers Rank-and-File Committee is declaring voting fraud in one of the unions that has ratified the contract. One week after the PEB plan was prepared, sample polling of railway workers showed 80-90% dissatisfaction with the terms and ambiguous language of the contract, meaning tens of thousands could still end up demanding a strike. Experts in labor and employee relations believe worker autonomy is the biggest desire among the union members, as most criticism to the proposed contract involves shift scheduling, not wages.

The U.S. Congress is prepared to pass legislation in effort to block a shipping shutdown in the event that negotiations fail. It is unclear what that legislation would look like. It is also unclear whether all the unions will have an answer for Congress by the November elections if union members fight for recounts. Stakes are high for the self-proclaimed pro-union president Biden regardless of timing. Even if a contract with the railways is established without the event of a strike, unions representing the ports on the U.S. West Coast are also in contract negotiations, leading Forbes magazine to advise American businesses to ship overseas goods through Canadian ports to be picked up by trucks.

Evers-Hillstrom, Karl. “Deal Averting Railroad Strike has Potential to Fall Apart.” The Hill, 18 Sept. 2022, Accessed 19 Sept. 2022.

Hall, Tom. “Railroad Workers’ Opposition Builds to Sellout Deal to Block National Strike.” World Socialist Web Site, 19 Sept. 2022. Accessed 10 Sept. 2022.

Hunnicutt, Trevor. “U.S. Rail Strike Averted, but Labor Deal Faces Tough Union Votes.” Reuters, 15 Sept. 2022, Accessed 19 Sept. 2022.

Reich, Robert B. “The Rail Strike Averted?” Tribune Content Agency, 19 Sept. 2022, Accessed 19 Sept. 2022.

RWRFC. “The IBEW Contract Vote was Fraudulent: Demand a Re-vote Under Rank-and-file Oversight!” World Socialist Web Site, 30 Sept. 2022. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

Salas, Maria. “Railroad Unions, Companies Reach Tentative Compromise to Avoid Strike.” Texas A&M Today, 22 Sept. 2022, Accessed 25 Sept. 2022. Segal, Edward. “Averted U.S. Railraod Strike is Wake-up Call for Company Executives.” Forbes, 15 Sept. 2022. Accessed 19 Sept. 2022.

Patriotism or Profit?

by Amy Heimann

An acquaintance recently received a new Employee Handbook from her place of work, and while she considered the majority of policies therein standard and unobjectionable, she did point out to me a paragraph hidden on the last page which caught her attention. It troubled me also. The notice read as follows: “If you are summoned to report for jury duty, you will be granted a leave of absence without pay when you notify and submit a copy of the original summons for jury duty to your supervisor. The Company reserves the right to request that you seek to be excused from or request postponement of jury service if the absence from work would create a hardship to the Company.”

Did you catch that? The employer requests that you seek to be excused from jury service. Have you ever read your employee handbook? Is there a similar clause? Is this new or is this something we all have missed? Perhaps you do not find this to be a problem statement, but the American in me cries out. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declares that all citizens have the right to an impartial jury for criminal prosecutions. This is one of the points that sets our country apart from nations without respect for justice and freedom. Where do the jury members come from? The state or county where the trial is held. Who are the jury members? Average folk like us. Do members of the jury enjoy their patriotic duty? Not as much as they ought, but I am willing to bet every American out there would demand a fair jury if they ever needed one. It is not just some revenue-driving factor that anyone found avoiding their jury summons or shirking their jury duty is subject to legal repercussions and fines. It should be offensive to even consider avoiding this pillar of American liberty.

And what is the motivation behind asking you to excuse yourself (potentially fraudulently) from your called duty? Because your absence from the workplace may “create a hardship to the Company.” A.K.A. because of money. These employers would rather not lose potential income. Their profit margin is more important than the right of a community member to a fair trial. Their paychecks are more important than the United States justice system.

That should make you sick.

If you ever receive a jury summons, or get called to sit on a jury, I ask that you set aside your greed. Forget about how inconvenienced you feel for a couple of days for the sake of your neighbor and country. Instead, feel pride that you reside in a nation that values its people, even to the point of including and using commoners like us in its legal proceedings. And if you are still flippant about jury duty, go watch 12 Angry Men.

Who’s In Town? – Friends of the Library

by Amy Heimann

There is a framed document on the wall of the Pioneer Memorial Library next to the circulation desk with 109 names. These proud citizens, with the desire to support reading for education and pleasure, formed the Friends of the Library charter in 1983. Funded through memorials and the annual book sale, the Friends group aids the library financially by purchasing new carts, displays, bookends, or other items requested by the county library. One big ticket item bought by the Friends of the Library was a video machine back in the age of VHS tapes. More recently, the Friends purchased and donated the DVD stands on the first floor.

The Friends also support child literacy and education by funding the Summer Reading Program, where youth can participate in six weekly programs related to history, the arts, and reading, or sign up to receive an award for reading twelve or more books over summer break. During the 2022 summer, several Wednesday morning programs entertained and encouraged over 500 area children. Additionally, the Friends collaborates with the Fredericksburg Rotary Club to order infant and children’s books for the Books for Babies Program, where each newborn delivered at Hill Country Memorial Hospital is given books before heading home. Anyone wishing to support reading and literacy by becoming a member of the Friends of the Library can fill out a brief contact form at the Pioneer Memorial Library. Volunteers are also being sought to help set up and work the annual book sale, which will be held Saturday, October 29 at Marktplatz from 9am until 2pm. Contact the library staff for more information.

Also This…

Yelp to Red Flag Pregnancy Centers. Popular review website Yelp will begin flagging pregnancy care centers, notifying users that they “typically provide[s] limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite”. The company claims this will “protect” abortion seekers from being “misled”. After prompting from Yelp, some Google staff members similarly want to remove pregnancy centers from their search results as “publishers of disinformation”.

New York City Continues to Fire Employees Over Vaccine. Thirteen hundred teachers and school aids took a year’s leave of absence last October, following NYC’s COVID vaccine mandate for the Department of Education. Only 450 of those have returned with proof of vaccination for the current school year, meaning the remaining 850 have been officially dismissed as of early-September. NYC Mayor Adams claims that city employees who refused to get the vaccine are lazy and were increasing the wage gap. Due to continued mandates, over 2,600 municipal workers have been fired in NYC alone.

Italy Elects Conservative as New Prime Minister. Giorgia Meloni was elected September 25th as the first female prime minister of Italy and the first right-leaning prime minister since WWII. Meloni, who is a strong proponent of democracy and natural, Christian families, declares staunch opposition to Islam, LGBT, Russian aggression, and mass immigration. Her party received about 26% of the vote in the Sunday election (more than any other party) and is expected to give the country long-awaited political stability.

Book Review

Have you seen the 175th Anniversary Fredericksburg Heritage Cookbook? You can find it at the Pioneer Memorial Library with the call number TX 641.5 One.

The cover boasts “Collected recipes, traditions, stories and memories through the generations from the families of Fredericksburg” and the introduction claims that the committee responsible for assembling the cookbook received over 500 recipes from area residents, narrowed down to only about 200. The remaining pages showcase artwork and photographs with commentary in medium-to-large font, preventing the inclusion of more recipes.
Perhaps some of the included recipes should have been substituted (namely, the one for boiled water and the one for stress release), but the overall collection is solid, with several enticing selections. Additionally, the “traditions, stories and memories” by Jan Fritz, along with annotations that accompany the recipes, are worthy history lessons for natives and Ausländers alike.

This book does NOT lay flat and it feels like the spine would break if one tried for use in the kitchen. If you are looking for something to read once and put down, or if you want a piece of Fredericksburg history, then this would be a good book for you. However, if you are looking for a more practical local cookbook, you may find a better option in a Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book.

Die Deutsche Ecke

At my former job, we would occasionally get phone calls from non-locals needing assistance finding our location in town. No problem. My coworkers and I had all lived in this area most of our lives, so giving directions would not be difficult. “Where are you now?” I asked on one memorable occasion. The woman on the other end replied, “I just crossed Growth Street.” I furrowed my brow and thought, I’ve never even heard of Growth Street. Looking at the faces of my coworkers, it was clear they were just as confused as I was. Growth Street? “Yes,” came the slightly annoyed response over the phone. “Spelled g-r-o-t-h-e.”

Alas! If she had only read Die Deutsche Ecke!

It just so happens that the German language does not have the “th” diphthong consonant sound. If you do happen to find the “th” juxtaposition, it is pronounced as a short “t”. In addition, when a German word ends with the letter “e”, as many do, the letter gets voiced and the word picks up a corresponding syllable. That is why eine is said ‘EYE neh and why deutsche is said ‘doi cheh. As a similar example, the lovely German surname Baethge is said ‘bAYt keh and not something ridiculous like batch, bethj, ‘bAYth gee, or even ‘bAY chee. (Like, really people? Where on earth did the chee come from?!?)

If you listen closely to how I said ‘bAYt keh, you will note that the “g” mysteriously turned into a “k” sound because it falls near the end of the word. Baethge and Rabke end up rhyming (although the former has a long “a” and the latter has a short “a” vowel sound).

Hausaufgaben: Pull out a paper map of Fredericksburg and circle all the German street names, saying them aloud. Extra credit: find and pronounce all the German road names on a Gillespie County map.

The Good News

*Adapted from Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament Vol. 1 by Paul E. Kretzmann, Concordia Publishing House, 1921.

The Gospel of Saint Luke, chapter 15, verses 3 through 7 (NKJV): So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

What the Lord here says of the seeking, finding, carrying of the lost sheep is full of beautiful significance. His merciful love embraces the lost, the forsaken, all sinners. There is comfort for all. For upon that fact I am baptized and here have the seals and letters in the Gospel, that I am His dear sheep, and that He is the good, pious Shepherd, who seeks His lost sheep and deals with me altogether without the Law, demands nothing of me, neither drives nor threatens nor terrifies; but shows me nothing but sweet mercy and humbles Himself below me and takes me upon Himself that I lie on His back and suffer myself to be carried. Why should I fear the terror and thunder of Moses, and that of the devil in addition, since I am secure in the protection of that Man who gives me His piety, and everything that He has, for my own, and carries me and holds me that I cannot be lost, while I remain a sheep and do not deny the Savior nor deliberately reject Him? Jesus, the Shepherd of the souls, leads the sinners to repentance by having His Word proclaimed to them. With His Word He searches, calls, pleads, until He finds the lost sinner.

Just as the sheep cannot guard itself nor take care that it does not go astray unless the shepherd always points the way and leads it; it cannot return to the right way nor come to the shepherd, but the shepherd must follow after it and search so long until he finds it; and when he has found it, he must take it upon his back and carry it that it may not again be terrified, driven away, and be seized by the wolf: even so we can neither help nor counsel ourselves to come to the quietness and peace of conscience, and to escape from the devil, death, and hell, unless Christ Himself gets us and calls us to Him through His Word. And even if we come to Him and are in faith, we are not able to keep ourselves therein, but Christ, our Shepherd, must do it all alone. And finally the good Shepherd takes His sheep home into the fold of heaven, giving every single one the bliss ineffable that has been prepared for them before the foundation of the world.

Jesus Himself makes the application of the story, saying most impressively that in the same way there is joy in heaven, before God, over a single sinner that repents, more than over a large number of just people that are not in need of repentance. Since this is true of God and all His holy angels, that they rejoice greatly over every further repentant sinner, how much more would it be expected of Jesus, who is present here on earth and in the sight of all men, that He show His gratification over these former wilful and malignant sinners that have now turned from the evil of their ways! The ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance are evidently people like the Pharisees and scribes, who in their own opinion are not in need of a Savior. They believe that they are just, accepted before God and men, that their outwardly unblemished life places them above the need of repentance. They have no idea of the actual filthy condition of their hearts. And so they are left in the wilderness while the lost sheep is taken home.

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