THE SPECTATOR: ‘HYPOCRITE’

  

Hypocrite.  Someone who says one thing but does just the opposite.  Hypocrite is a good word to describe many of the members of our Brenham City Council.  At Thursday’s meeting of the City Council, the members voted 5 to 2 against a license agreement with Mescalito Coffee for a parklet on Park Street beside their business.  The parklet would take up two parallel parking spaces and would be similar to the one in front of 96 West on Baylor Street.  A major difference, however, would be that the one by Mescalito would be open to the public 24-7.  Anyone who wanted to eat or drink or just sit and relax outside on our beautiful courthouse square would be welcome to use it.  And this nice, landscaped seating area would be paid for by private funds, not your tax dollars. 

It has been a year since Mescalito first inquired about building a parklet.  The City Council directed staff and Main Street Board volunteers to develop a manual to license and govern any parklets in the downtown area, and asked Mescalito to put their plans on hold.  Last summer, after much public discussion and several public meetings, the Council approved the manual with the restriction of allowing only 6 in the immediate downtown.  A two-month window was opened for businesses to apply for a parklet.  Only one did….Mescalito.  They went through the licensing process and did everything as instructed by City staff.  Prior to Thursday’s vote, about a dozen people addressed the Council about the proposed parklet.  Each time someone spoke for the parklet, the overflow crowd in Council chambers applauded loudly. Only one person, the owner of the building directly across from Mescalito, spoke against it.  Yet even that woman’s business tenant voiced her support for the parklet. 

Yet without any real explanation, the Council voted 5 to 2 not to accept the licensing agreement.  Councilman Atwood Kenjura was the only one who spoke up before the vote saying he felt the City needed to address the parking issue before approving another parklet.  Seems like I’ve heard the Council talk about parking before…maybe a hundred times in the past 20 years!  Parking has been the main concern at every public meeting of Brenham Main Street.  Yet the Council has failed to do a single thing to improve the situation.  Nothing.  Just a lot of talk. 

Now, instead of solving the problem, they are once again going against a business’s plans…in this case plans that were also going to benefit the public, locals and tourists alike.  Why would they vote against someone who followed all the rules and was patient while they waited months for those rules to be written?  Perhaps it was because Councilmembers think they are finally doing something to improve parking, by not allowing those two parking spaces to become a parklet.  That’s some great thinking, isn’t it.  Or maybe they succumbed to the woman who went around town asking people to sign a petition saying that Downtown has a parking problem, and want it addressed.  The same woman, from what I heard, originally wanted a parklet for herself until she was told there could only be one per block.  And that’s when she became obsessed with stopping Mescalito’s from being approved.  Hypocrite.  Seems like a good word for more than one person here.

And that’s the way it looks to this Spectator.

41 Comments

  1. Of the 5 votes No votes on the parklet 2 Council Members Atwood Kenjura and Shannan Canales both stated in the meeting that they had spoken with their constituents who said Parking was a problem and didn’t want to lose any more of it to this park-let..Mr. Kenjura actually walked downtown Brenham on a Tuesday afternoon and spoke to the businesses in downtown …And their constituents believed these two spaces were important ..Mr. Colby pointed out the coffee shop already has two outdoor seating areas. And has been given parking spaces already in the back. Mrs. Canales even acknowledged that she personally was in favor, but her constituents weren’t so she would vote no. We should applauded them for listening to us and voting our thoughts and beliefs, don’t you wish our other elected officials would do the same. I believe we have ALL said at times that the people we elect vote the way they want and not our beliefs. Thank You Mrs Canales, Mr. Kenjura, and Mr. Colby for listening to us.
    Rusty Summar

    1. Rusty, I’m glad you brought up these points, some I wish I addressed in the meeting.
      1. During Atwood’s stroll around town, he pointed out how much parking there actually is, which several echoed during the meeting. No parking problem: allotment problem. Targeting us like you and your GF are doing is wrong as I’m sure you are finding out. You have decided to go after two young entrepreneurs who are trying to do good things, but the underlying angst about not getting your own parklet clouded reasonable judgment and has made you both contrive and stir this non issue. You both think you know what is good for downtown retail, but reality is, you both have no clue.
      2. Mr. Colby should have been corrected for this comment. Front seating is our property. No one “gave us this”. This is inside our property line and was indoor, but bc of rot and not being able to restore as original, it was redesigned by our AWARD WINNING architects to convert to outdoor. Long story, several other city meetings on this issue. The rear “given” to us? This was 1 spot we were required to take to create an emergency access due to life safety code. 1 parking spot to make 1800sf of previously unused and inaccessible to the public space available for retail to brenham? 1 spot for us to put 500k into that building to create more retail for brenham? So the argument is because we have done such a good job with the others, we should not be allowed to continue? This argument is incorrect from Colby and he needs to be addressed on this.
      3. You keep mentioning constituents. Show me. I’ll show you 100’s maybe 1,000’s of constituents that support the inverse of your GFs. Let me run a petition about the truth, based on relevant recent and REAL experience and then applaud the few with hidden agendas, limited influential backers and others that are simply jealous of success. We will see during the next election how close they “listened to their constituents.”

  2. This isn’t the first time that Mescalito has been given the runaround. They also had months of delays due to the new historic committee getting in the way of some minor changes. Private investors can work around some pretty onerous rules but they fundamentally ought to be able to rely on those rules to be clearly stated and consistently implemented.

    The public relies on that too because it promotes a sense that there’s not any backroom wheeling and dealing going on and that we have a transparent and professional local government that’s working for us.

  3. I have an idea instead of giving Carolyn Miller a considerable raise; the city should invest that money into a parking garage. That would solve all the parking problems.

    1. The loss of two parking spaces to allow Mescalito Coffee to create a parklet for many people to enjoy should be allowed. Since downtown parking seems to be such a hotly debated subject in Brenham and has been for years, why not try something different to resolve the issue of the many ‘long term parking offenders’ who work in the downtown area and repeatedly insist on using the parking spaces close to their business or employer to park their vehicle while they are at work all day, leaving very few parking spaces for the visitors to the businesses? Has Brenham ever considered installing parking meters in the downtown area and have the parking fee high enough to deter the employees who choose to park close by from running out to feed the meter every hour! Just a thought….

      1. Parking meters were part of the downtown structure for many years, until they were removed in the 1980’s, I believe. They were collected and sold off. You are correct in that the time limits forced workers in the downtown area (who used parking spaces) to run out and put money in, as tickets were a very real possibility. However, it was decided that the trouble to maintain the parking meters, as well as pay someone to collect the change (after Mr. Hahn retired) was not worth it and they were removed. The other point you bring up is also true in that many local businesses employees used, and probably still use, the downtown parking spaces rather than park on the outlying lots, one off of Commerce Street and the other two off of North Park Street. This issue was also brought up repeatedly as I remember and the courthouse personnel were “going to have to park in those lots”, as well as other business employees, but none of that ever really materialized. My father, who had his practice downtown, always used to laugh that the employees of some businesses would not agree to park two or three blocks away and walk to their place of employment but insisted on parking nearby, yet they were the first to join a fitness center for exercise. I can only imagine what Mayor Lockett and Mayor Clayton would be thinking (and/or doing) about all this…

      2. parking meters were in place for years and discouraged downtown businesses from getting customers. Patrons were actually angered by meters and avoided shopping downtown.

  4. This is absurd. Vote again and approve the parklet. It would be good for pedestrians and tourists alike.

    If council is so concerned about parking, what have they done about it.

    This council seems to have a vendetta against both people and a small business. The point?

    Vote again. Clean up your mess.

  5. City Counsil, Please think how difficult it is for a small business to survive! Property taxes just shot to the moon and beyond a couple months ago. This makes the small retail shops downtown a labor of love. These folks hang on despite the many months they may break even or lose money. Try to help them survive and grow! Try to help and accommodate downtown retailers whenever possible, they need and deserve it. Mescalito invested a large amount of capital in that location, I think you should help them be a success if possible.

  6. Dear Tom,
    I am the woman you referred to as a “ Hypocrite “ because you “Heard” I wanted a parklet for my building. We have spoken the phone before and I would have thought you would have called me to verify. I want to clarify that I never requested, asked for, or wanted a parklet. I didn’t even know what a parklet was until I was told by a friend that Mescalito’s was taking away parking for a 3rd outdoor seating area which was going to be across from my building on West Alamo and South Park St. and effect my ability to lease my building in the future.

    When I spoke to the retailers downtown, no one was in favor of losing parking spaces, and most weren’t aware of the parklet Manual. However, almost all were afraid of the repercussions to speak out against them. I met with Jared of Mescalito’s and we looked and discussed options and made an agreement to continue to look for alternatives to prevent loosing parking spaces.
    However, once again I was notified by a group of downtown retailers that We needed to protect retail parking against the city council voting to let restaurants expand their seating into public parking and call it a park. Don’t you think there is another area that might not have so much outdoor seating already? I mean he has two outdoor seating areas and we do have Toubin Park across the street? I am not a hypocrite. I am one of the few people to stand up . Right now Brenham is attracting bars ,bars, and more bars. I envision a downtown Brenham that is family friendly that includes venues for children and walkable retail parking for elderly and all citizens. If this is not your vision; Please call me any name you want. You will never change my mind and I will never back down !

    Best Regards
    Sherry Harber

    1. Sherry:

      I learned many months ago, from several reliable sources, that you were inquiring about a parklet for your building. No need to call, although I have called before and your voice mailbox is full. You are a little late to the party. People have been complaining about a lack of parking in Downtown Brenham for at least 20 years. Of course, prior to that, there was plenty of parking because no one came to the downtown area. In 2012 the City adopted a Downtown Master Plan, of which I was a part. Improving the parking situation was a key component of the plan. It was still a key component when a Main Street Committee, on which I again served, spent a year working on an update to the Master Plan. Several strategies were outlined, everything from purchasing additional downtown land for parking, building a parking garage, and working with the County Judge to encourage County employees to park in outlying lots instead of on the square. We even identified a list of prime properties that could be purchased for parking, and prioritized them for the City. Over the years I have pleaded with the City to do something, anything, to calm the outcry about the need for additional parking. To date the City has done absolutely nothing. When there was an outcry against the Parklet manual I again encouraged the City to make some kind of effort to appease those who were asking for more parking. City officials told me there wasn’t really a shortage of parking, but rather a problem with County employees, business owners and their employees not using the outlying lots, but rather parking in front of stores and around the courthouse. The Council even discussed putting together a “Parking Task Force” to look into the problem. Again, nothing has happened and no one knows what became of that task force. So through my eyes, the City has no one to blame but themselves that they are feeling pressure to not follow through on a Parklet plan that they already approved. In fact, practically every improvement to downtown that has occurred since the Master Plan was adopted has been made by the private sector. So for the City to use their own ineptitude as the reason for not approving the Mescalito parklet is shameful in my eyes. I will share more about all of this in an upcoming Spectator.

      1. Now Tom, you seem to be trying to usurp my long held position as official downtown Junkyard Dog. This does not go unnoticed nor will be taken lightly. Brenham is now facing a once in decades opportunity with a majority of City Council up for election. For those dissatisfied with local government here is the opportunity to replace incumbents with a more acceptable majority. Time to not just complain but step up and run for office. With hopefully 4 fresh faces all on the same page we will regain the forward momentum of the Walter Schwartz days.

        Time for Brenham government to move beyond the era of retirees and bored housewives and find capable experienced executive material. When in Doubt, Vote ’em Out

        1. Mr. Traylor,
          I can assure you none of the three women currently serving the community on City Council are “bored housewives”. We all own local, small businesses in addition to volunteering countless hours in different ways to better our community outside of our duties as public officials.

    2. Sherry, you have stated that you have other businesses and groups on your side but I have yet to see anyone except you against this parklet. No one has come to your defense. Where are the other people (besides sitting behind the big desk at City Hall) that oppose this parklet? Can anyone else speak up?
      For the amount of people who spoke up in favor and support of Mescalito, I’ve only heard 1 in opposition.

      1. She provide each council member with copies of the petition signed by over twenty downtown merchants. Mr Kenjura said he also spoke with merchants on this subject. I know first hand that a number of merchants also sent emails because they didn’t want to be attached on social media.

      2. Elle Elle,
        Surely you realize that the city council voted the way they did for a reason – they were overwhelmed by the amount of emails that came through AGAINST this parklet, and that is why many members of the council voted this way.

        In terms of who else is against this parklet – I’m sure Sherry would love to show you / send you a copy of the 30+ signatures she collected from people in Brenham against the parklet.

        This is not some kind of conspiracy – this is the decision wanted by the Majority of Brenham.

        1. Sara…the petition, which KWHI has now received and will be making public, was signed by only 23 people. The majority of those who signed are either employees or patrons of the stores, or just citizens. That is certainly not a “majority of Brenham” as Ms. Harber began gathering signatures on November 12th of last year. Also another important fact is that the petition never mentions the parklet that was up for a vote. In fact the petition does not say anything about parklets at all. It is a “Petition against removing public parking” and asks the City to not remove public parking spaces downtown. As for councilmembers being “overwhelmed by the amount of emails that came through against this parklet”, I have no doubt that they received a lot. But I wonder how many of those who emailed actually live in the Houston area, as two people commenting on this article do.

  7. If I have the store correct, it’s less than a block from public parking near Ant Street Inn.

    Seriously, folks WILL walk a block for a good cup of coffee (unfortunately I got there too late last time I was in town)

    I would at the store where I live now until. It closed down to… low traffic. Similar situation as well… needed a good place to rest and enjoy their drinks, but nothing came about.

    Brenham has grown in the 4 years since I was there in downtown, even the square. But I see the council even now do more bad than good.

  8. Thought all these new people on city council were going to make big changes?? Looks like they learned real quick how to fall in line….

  9. The city gives away land to developers but can’t give up two parking spots? It’s time to vote them out of office. This is a disgrace!

  10. Brenham doesn’t have a parking problem. Brenham has a walking (perception) problem.
    Odds are you’ll park farther from the door at heb than any business downtown. The 96 West parklet is fantastic… Mescalito would be the same.

    1. A JOY of visiting and experiencing Small Town America is the JOY of walking, window shopping and discovering what is just down the street a little bit farther. When one arrives you DO NOT expect to park in front of one particular store that is reserved apparently in your own mind just for you. Sitting together, breaking bread, enjoying a cup of coffee and enjoying the day is important so having a couple parking spots that will bring JOY the entire day to many who sit there is very important. There is no parking problem in Brenham, drive around, park and walk while enjoying the fresh air and pondering your thoughts of Gratefulness of Small Town America. As I write this the two parking spots in question are empty yet pedestrians, families, couples on a date could be sitting outside on this beautiful day enjoying a new “parklette” in a Brenham, Texas enhancing their experience.

  11. How are businesses supposed to thrive with mixed messages? @mescalitocoffee and Ballad Of The Bird Dog are destination businesses for downtown. When private investment happens in an historic downtown that defines what Brenham is, public government should reciprocate and support it. We have a downtown master plan document that should be guiding this conversation

    https://docs.cityofbrenham.org/Departments/Planning/downtown-main-street-master-plan.pdf

  12. This article hits the nail on the head, well several heads. We appreciate all of those in attendance at the city council meeting who spoke intelligently and objectively to the matter at hand. However, it seemed the matter at hand was not the matter to be voted on, but re-hashing an issue of parking that Sherry Harber has stirred up again with her petition. The parklet manual was approved allocating 6 parklets downtown, and apparently the association was not made that these parklets would take up parking spaces. Sherry is a brand new building owner downtown, who seems intent on buying as many properties as she can upon seeing the momentum and energy that several downtown business owners have created in Brenham. Instead of assimilating to the friendly and inviting culture of downtown, she is creating chaos and division. We feel like sharing some facts about Sherry will open peoples eyes to the real threat of opportunists coming to Brenham and their agendas:
    1. Sherry bought Today and Yesterday (the old opera house). At the same time, she attempted to apply for a parklet for her building, however was unsuccessful due to the fact that the “business owner” has to apply and not the landlord. When hearing this and when the manual is allotting 1 parklet per block, she started an uproar against the city and has been tenaciously fighting our parklet since.
    2. Her current tenants are vacating and will be renting another property downtown.
    3. Since purchasing Today and Yesterday Sherry has been vocal about buying as many properties as she can get her hands on. Unfortunately, she acquired more properties west of the cigar lounge in the past few weeks. After she raised their rent, those retailers are relocating.
    4. Sherry is not bashful about saying how much money and wealth she has, in fact if you meet her, this will most likely be included in her opening introduction in attempt to gain credibility. She has been outwardly vocal that she will support, sponsor and try to get people into positions of power to support her agenda.
    5. Sherry stated in yesterday’s meeting that she has a house, and is a contributing tax paying member of this community. However, she has said outright that she has no plans to occupy the house she bought. She operates no business that generates sales tax revenue for Brenham. She passes property tax on to tenants and the small businesses that are in fact contributing.
    6. Sherry owns shopping centers in Oklahoma. She believes downtown Brenham parking should be as accessible as her strip malls and that this is the only thing that will make retail survive.

    While council has been swayed by Sherry and her petition signed by some downtown owners, I hope they now realize the true stakeholders for downtown are the tourists whose revenue funds their jobs. We listen to our 30-40k followers, customers and supporters that generate 7 figure revenue we pay tax on and have been laser focused to fill their needs. When we were at our old location for almost 5 years with no parking, did our customers complain about wanting more parking? No. Not once have I heard this be a deterrent to coming to our store. We succeeded and thrived with no parking. They wanted places open Sunday; we listened and are open 7 days a week. They want more places to sit outside and enjoy time with friends and family that they are meeting. They want to experience historical buildings, in a charming town. They absolutely don’t want Brenham to be like a shopping mall or strip center. Business models that are reliant on parking in front of their businesses are not looking to rent downtown. Downtown is unique and people come downtown because of this. If you think parking is hurting or a hinderance, see how you can provide goods or services that are in demand and marketing that capitalizes on the inherent nature of being in a small downtown. The more Brenham grows, parking is not going to improve. Downtown is perfect as it is, and the more we listen to our customers, and create a downtown that continues to rejuvenate and celebrate its beauty, the more business and tourism will follow. This is our selling point and what makes people want to #visitbrenham.

  13. This is so ridiculous. Give them the parklet. Oh no you may have to walk a block. Parking is not an issue downtown for anyone who can walk. During our festivals we have hundreds of people downtown and guess what? We walk from wherever we find parking. It always works. When did walking a block become so bad? We can all use a little more walking in our lives!!

  14. It sure is sad to see empty downtown streets and full “Big box store” parking lots the week before Christmas.
    Now we have a City counsel that wants “small town” but shoots great people in the foot when they want to and have invested, improved and dare I say, brought in more people to downtown than one single business has in a long time. Oh well, I guess let’s keep telling small town investors to move on to surrounding towns where improvement and their money is welcomed…

  15. Another incidence of the city officials not following up with past committals to the citizens. If city employees would use more of the distant parking lots and especially give the one across from the Barnhill Center back to public parking as well as the one across from the Kenjura Building. Another problem is the Court House parking around the square. The parking garage idea should already be in past city planning records after the previous municipal city building was removed. Just another past committment not kept as was a second fire station many years ago.

  16. I believe Mr. Tom Whitehead should run for mayor, he seams to be the only person who has any common sense. And thats the way it looks to me.

    1. Donald I totally agree! He’s always been fair in his questions and comments. I would be happy to see this come true!

  17. The City Council must be trying to run some businesses out of town. I call that “shooting yourself in the foot”! Why wouldn’t you want to make the downtown more “people friendly”? Washington County Resident

  18. I believe parking will always be an issue no matter the town or city. A parklet that occupies two spaces seems like a reasonable option and I believe it would be a nice addition.
    It doesn’t make sense to have a business jump through hoops for a year only to be voted down.
    I feel our city leaders need to be more objective and really weigh all the facts before making a decision like this.
    All too often council members let their personal desires and interest interfere with making an informed decision.
    That is my two cents worth, hope all have a blessed day.

  19. When are you people going to realize the members of our city council will only do things for their friends and buddies. Look at how well the cafe at the air port was handled. Instead of leasing it to a person that would have the business and do good with it for one that had friends on the city council. The council we have now is so two faced. And how do you vote not but still support the parklet being there???

  20. Parking has been an issue since the 80’s. When they tore down the old municipal building they had the PERFECT opportunity to solve the parking issue by building a parking garage with several levels. They instead just paved over some of it and made it regular parking. Now when I say we need a parking garage I mean a FREE one! The increase in people to downtown will outweigh what the cost of the structure is. There can even be a level dedicated to County and City employees to get them out of the street spaces. I know that takes away for the Downtown feel we have but if it’s behind the buildings on Main and Alamo then it’s somewhat hidden to keep the look they want. You have to compromise somewhere.

    1. Excellent idea! Amazing that no one on city council has ever thought about this! Wake up people!!!!

      1. A parking garage for downtown is in the Downtown Master Plan, adopted by the City 10 years ago. The City has been seeking a hotel developer who could help build a garage that was public/private. No takers so far, and the property remains basically unused.

    2. Bottom line is people are lazy. If the front bumper of the car doesn’t hit the front door, people will complain about parking. Putting a parking garage in anywhere downtown will go unused because people will complain about the walk.
      Glad they didn’t pass another parklet as the other one shouldn’t have ever been installed in the first place!

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