New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 29, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
41 Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | herald-zeitung.comOPINION
HERALD-ZEITUNG EDITORIAL BOARD
Publisher and Editor Doug Toney
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PO. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78130 •By fax: (830)606 3413
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Steps taken in the past were not enough; what now?
Living on an uncommonly qui et stretch of the Guadalupe River, yet only two blocks from the Comal River, provides me a dual view of the beautiful waterways that pass through New Braunfels.
On the one hand, I can stand on the back porch of the home my husband's family has occupied since 1943 and enjoy the serenity of wood ducks, cormorants and turtles peacefully basking in the deep green, cypress-lmed waters of the Guadalupe. Then, I can walk to the backyards of close neighbors and see thousands of tubers on the Comal River, often crammed body to body for as far as the eye can see.
On busy days, the crystalline water is mud-colored from the activity. Paper trash, debris and aluminum cans float on the surface. From my friend's dock, I can look across the Comal to the spot where an inebriated tourist recently choked a New Braunfels police officer into unconsciousness.
My first active involvement in trying to improve the safety and quality of life on the rivers came in 2000, when I returned home from four years overseas. As a resident of New Braunfels since 1983, those few years living in Africa and England in the late 1990s provided me with something of a “before'' and "after" perspective of the rivers. Although there had been sporadic complaints about behavior and pollution before I left, it was after I returned home that I heard the outcry of fellow citizens rise to a deafening roar. Flabbergasted at what I saw as a lack of response by the city council at that time, I joined a group of activists who were mostly strangers to me, to try to help their voices be heard.
On Labor Day Weekend 2000, about 5-10 of us took turns standing on the Mam Plaza with formal petitions and holding signs advocating that alcohol be banned from the rivers within the city limits. In only two days, without prior publicity or fanfare, we garnered the endorsement signatures of nearly 3,000 registered voters in New Braunfels. It was the sin-
gle largest, most unified statement by the citizens of our city, perhaps, in its history. Far more residents signed the petitions than had ever voted in our city elections. It was an extraordinarily powerful statement from the people saying "enough is enough."
In response to citizen demands, city council took another look at the issue. City Attorney Charles Zech made a good-faith effort to define the Comal River, which belongs to the state, as an appendage of our downtown business district and. therefore, an area over which the city should have more authority. This legal request came before the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission in Austin, where a group of New Braunfels residents who supported the ban. and a few outfitters who opposed the petitions, appeared and spoke. In a memorable public hearing, the TABC decided to take “no action,” thus neither endorsing, nor rejecting, the city's wishes. They weren’t buying the city's claim that the Comal River was a "business district", yet they clearly were sympathetic to the city’s plight. The Chairman of the TABC. John Steen, lectured river outfitters, admonishing them to, basically, clean up their act or they "would kill the goose that laid you the golden egg."
Both sides went back to New Braunfels and things limped along without much progress for several years.
In 2005,1 was elected to the city council. Although river issues were not my motivation for running, it wasn't long before they came up again and my role was reversed. Suddenly, I was one of the policy makers, rather than simply a citizen wanting to be heard. I took the job of listening and deciding very seriously. Two city council meetings devoted exclusively to the rivers lasted nearly six hours
each. Passions were high on both sides as speakers came up to the podium to express their views. After the second meeting, I returned to my car in the dark to find that it had been egged. Walking up my back steps at nearly midnight. I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Emails, purporting to be from friends of some of the river outfitters, expressed both dismay and rage over the new rules city council was considering, such as smaller coolers and a ban on Jell-0 shots. One letter to me simply said, "you suck.”
Most of the emails came from addresses linked to local universities. Word spread like wildfire over the Internet that New Braunfels might take booze off the rivers, which was untrue.
As loud and aggressive as the din from the opponents of the rules were, they paled in comparison to the voices of the 3,000 residents who parked and got out of their cars on a Labor Day weekend to sign a petition demanding change. As earnest as some of the citizens were who did not want regulations on the river, there was an even greater number of residents who sincerely begged "please do this." In the name of public safety and quality of life, city council voted 4-3 to codify the new rules. I was one of the 4.
Months later, while still serving on city council, I attended a private annual Christmas Party in San Antonio where over the years I had often seen and spoken with State Senator Jeff Wentworth. In every encounter,
I had found him to be genuinely interested in his job and in serving his constituents. I decided to share an idea I had been mulling over in my mind. Making it very clear that I was speaking only for myself personally, I asked him what he thought of the state ceding authority over the Comal River to the City of New Braunfels. The Comal is the shortest river in Texas. I argued, which begins and ends in the city limits. Maintenance and security of the river cost the city nearly $1 million annually. with the state contributing
essentially nothing in either funds or manpower. It seemed reasonable to me that a river, which so clearly and uniquely has its origins and impact solely within the City of New Braunfels, should be the responsibility of the citizens who live here. It seemed unfair to me that a state government, which "owns” the river takes on none of the heavy burdens associated with caring for it.
Sen. Wentworth listened attentively. Then, without hesitation, he said he thought it was a valid and good idea. Within a few days, his Chief of Staff in Austin told me that the legislation was being drafted. I was both a little nervous and happy that my proposal was being considered. At long last, local control would be granted to the citizens of New Braunfels over one of their most cherished natural resources. The full-time tax-paying residents of the community could decide how they wanted to manage a river, which had helped define our city as "the beauty spot of Texas.” As someone not afraid of so-called "controversial” issues, I looked forward to the challenge this landmark legislation might present. Apparently, others felt differently. Although Sen. Wentworth and his staff seemed to earnestly pursue the legislation for several weeks, I was told by someone close to the process that a few city leaders and, particularly. the powerful liquor lobby, did not want our citizens to be granted this authority. Thus, as with many good pieces of legislation, it died on the vine. I still believe it was an opportunity lost.
I am no longer on city council. And 11 years have passed since nearly 3,000 registered voters in New Braunfels signed their names to a petition calling for change on our rivers. Many more voices have joined theirs since that day.
Given that the steps we have taken previously seem not enough, how will we now answer that call?
Kathleen Krueger is a former New Braunfels city councilor and mayor pro tern.
LETTERS TO THE EDITORTime to create an alcohol-free zone on the rivers
TWI (toobing while intoxicated) has been a problem for years. Now it has become a major problem. The last ingredient in the recipe to controlling the problems on the river is creating an alcohol-free zone.
The police and fire officials have done an excellent job of handling the problems. The next step is for the city to assist them, making the river more enjoyable for all by banning any and all alcoholic beverages on the river. It worked for plastic and Styrofoam and will make a dramatic change in behavior on those floating the river. Schlitterbahn doesn't condone such behavior and neither should the city!
I bet the Marine floating the river who got in trouble recently would have not gotten into an argument with his wife or attacked the police officer if it wasn't for the alcohol. It will also keep our streets safer when these people leave the river to drive home.
Don’t get the idea I don’t drink. I do Beer (most evenings) or wine at home an# multiple glasses of Texas Tea at McAdoo’s, margaritas at Adobe Verde and Mozie’s or wine at Huisache.
I spent all my summers as a youth at Camp War-necke. Even as a “baby boomer" I still like to float the river or kayak. BUT the drunks, the aggressive and rude behaviors stopped it for me and others.
JB Williamson Canyon LakoNew Braunfels is being held captive by irresponsible drunks
I'm very tired of the same issue every summer of trouble on the Comal River. The behavior of what is becoming a majority of the tubers has got to stop.
As we do with our children, we take away privileges for misbehaving, so now is the time to take away privileges (ban afcohol) from those visitors that can't seem to handle their abuse of alcohol and lack of respect for others’ property and the authorities. This is not a matter of rights to do what you want. It’s a matter of respect for the community and the beautiful piece of river that is being shared by many different individuals.
One of our governing entities should take a stand and protect the beautiful river and city they so often talk about in the travel brochures.
As I see it right now. New Braunfels is being held captive by irresponsible drunks, hoodlums, and those retailers that only see the money sign. Someone needs to care and take some action. I would also like to find out how much we as citizens of New Braunfels and Comal County are paying to handle everything from the monitoring of the river to the arrest processing. I also fear for my children when they drive home from work amid all the buzzed and rowdy tourists. Last, a question, why when my family visits another town we have no intentions of causing havoc in order to have fun and these visitors do?
J. Schwab Now BraunfelsPull the plug on Alligator/ Geronimo creeks protection plan
Last week, I read an article about the Alligator and Geronimo creeks watershed protection plan meeting in Seguin on June 14.
Proponents of the plan (the partnership) envision once the plan is approved and sent to the EPA, it can be used in the submission of grant applications by the cities of New Braunfels and Seguin to fund projects to reduce pollution in the watershed. Grants are 60 percent (federal) and 40 percent (local) of projected costs. Grant applications are almost laughable, but not really funny. The federal treasury is drowning in red ink currently at minus $14 trillion. Since the cities of New Braunfels and Seguin are participants in the partnership, it means that all tax-paying property owners within these two cities (and those within the watershed) will be paying additional taxes providing the 40 percent participation. Taxpayers need to talk to their city councilors to pull the plug on the plan.
Clarence E. Sahm Geronimo
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HZTexas Legislature sputters into final week of special session
AUSTIN — Last week was the next-to-last week of the 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature, which ends today. There were no whip-crackmg weekend sessions of the House or Senate to speed things along On June 20, Gov. Rick Per ry again added to the list of items he expects lawmakers to solve. In this case, he called for legislation relating to the prosecution and punishment for the offense of official oppression on those seeking access to public buildings and transportation. Many Texans have come to recognize that as the "anti-groping" orY~ - " ED
"intrusive touching" bill first filed during the regular session. which ended May 30. by Longview Republican state Rep. David Simpson. If passed, Simpson's HB 41 would put the brakes on preboarding pat-down searches of passengers conducted by airport Transportation Safety Agency workers.
So. with an eye on the clock. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, per
formed a maneuver to set aside and possibly snuff Simpson’s controversial bill, which if debated, could push many of the issues off the dwindling calendar.
Here is how Straus did it; after less than 10 minutes in session on Friday, June 24. he simply adjourned the House and announced the body would reconvene on June 27.
What is still unfinished with so little time left in the special session? Contentious major budget bills, health care cost containment, sanctuary cities and Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) reform.
State senators and representatives of course are aware that the governor could call a second special session to handle TWIA reform before the hurricane season, which began June I. gets much farther along. This week Texans will see how anxious lawmakers and the governor are to wrap up and call it a day.Drought plan time is now
Drought conditions in Texas continue, with wildfires popping, 100-degree temperatures common and rainfall sketchy at best.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent a
letter dated June 23 to public water suppliers encouraging them to implement their drought contingency plans, if they haven’t already done so without prompting.
Water suppliers are required by commission rules to develop plans to manage water usage, reduce peak demand and extend supplies. The rules apply to all retail public water suppliers and whole-. sale water suppliers, the commission said, adding that plans typically include targets for water use reductions, conservation measures, ways to manage supply and demand, and public education.
Customers will be notified by their water supplier when a plan is activated, the TCEQ said.DPS warns of scam
On June 21, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported scammers have been calling Texas residents demanding that they pay for overdue red-light tickets.
The DPS does not collect traffic fines or oversee red-light cameras. Scammers say that an arrest warrant will be issued if the person receiving the call does not provide a credit card number, as well as Social Security numbers and other information.