“Concerned taxpayers” carried the day over soccer moms and turned down a City of Fredericksburg bond proposal that would have added new baseball, softball and soccer fields at Oak Crest Park.
The vote failed 767-667 on Election Day after a local effort sought to derail it.
Also, Gillespie County voters passed five of seven state Constitutional Amendments. At press time, it appeared all were headed for easy passage statewide. (See box totals on page A8.)
Gillespie voters rejected permitting additional professional sports teams to have charitable raffles (Prop. 5) by 918-863 and Permitting financial institutions to award random prizes to customers (Prop. 7) by 985-853.
A Facebook campaign with no names attached to it surfaced last week, drawing a rapid response from park supporters.
The effort by a group calling itself “Concerned Taxpayers of Fredericksburg” created a Facebook page.
State Rep. Kyle Biedermann placed a sign in the parking lot of his business with the slogan “Parking not parks, Vote No,” but he took it down quickly after social media backlash.
He also shared posts from the group’s Facebook page, but claimed only a vague connection with like-minded people when asked by this newspaper.
Biedermann contended the $12.6 million was too much to spend on the facility, while not wanting to be quoted on the record.
But it turns out the state representative led the mostly anonymous movement against the parks project all along.
The name Kenneth K. Biedermann is listed on an Oct. 25 Doing Business As (DBA) filing with the Gillespie County Clerk’s Office for a group “Concerned Taxpayers of Fredericksburg.” (This newspaper runs these business filings each week on its business page.)
The group also sent mailers and some locals reported getting phone calls encouraging them to vote against the bond issue.
The strategy worked as homeowners and property owners, who have seen rising property appraisals lead to higher tax bills, turned out in stronger force than the proverbial “soccer moms.”
Mayor Linda Langerhans expressed disappointment that the vote didn’t pass.
“It’s disappointing that the young people in our community who participate in athletics have been denied new sports facilities,” Langerhans said. “Athletics plays a huge part in helping our young people develop in a positive manner and keep them out of trouble.”
Administrators of the opponent page used a copyrighted photo of downtown Fredericksburg without the photographer’s permission. The photographer, Steve Rawls, threatened legal action and the photo was removed from the site.
The group also used six words from an editorial which ran in this newspaper in favor of the parks bond.
The editorial written in the Oct. 11 edition began: “Having more recreational facilities is not Fredericksburg’s most pressing issue… But the $12.5-million bond issue to expand Oak Crest Park to include more baseball and soccer fields is worth the time and money.”
The site used a logo from this newspaper and a snippet of the editorial: “is not Fredericksburg’s most pressing issue,” then encouraged locals to vote against it.
Repeated requests last week for full disclosure of who was behind the site went unanswered.
Fredericksburg’s proposed project included six soccer areas, six new baseball and softball fields, two concession and restroom facilities, new playgrounds and pavilions and infrastructure items that include parking, irrigation and landscaping.
The city purchased the land for $3.5 million last year, eyeing the potential park improvements. The city sold 10 acres of that land to the county for use to expand the airport.
Kerrville recently completed a similar project for sports fields, benefitting from a land donation of $1 million and $2 million cash contribution from the Callioux Foundation. The City of Kerrville issued $9 million in bond debt and also benefitted from an unknown amount of economic development funds for the project.
Kerrville estimates revenues from tournaments of roughly $735,000 per year and a similar amount in expenses.
Comments on the Frederickburg Standard’s Facebook page came fast and furious after the vote.
Lindsey Hollin: “Lots of false advertising on this telling people to vote no. …Fred will be the next Austin with traffic and no place for families, just alcohol-driven fun.”
Jolene Dear Gordon: “It would be nice that those of us in the count who live outside the city could contribute to projects like this and help carry the burden because all the children of Gillespie County would certainly benefit.”
Vic Rust: “Figured this was a young vs. senior vote. Young folks wanted the parks but Sr. did not want that price. Pretty high.”
Courtney Strackbein: “There is 1 soccer field in this town. ONE.”
Jennifer Surma Schneider: “Very heartbreaking. Problem is, those who got out and voted have nothing to do with their children and grandchildren struggling to find places to practice for soccer and baseball. Let alone finding time to schedule their games at reasonable hours of the day/evening. All because there are not enough fields to play on.”