Diversity debated on Kyle commissions

Debate over the effects of demographically unbalanced Kyle boards and commissions sprouted up Jan. 15 as city leaders appointed a new Planning and Zoning Commissioner.

The Kyle City Council’s appointment marks the third P&Z seat to be filled in the last few months.

In October 2018, Kyle City Council Members Alex Villalobos and Daphne Tenorio informally requested that city staff better advertise board and commission applications to Kyle residents. Council members were hoping to better balance P&Z participation city-wide.

City leaders advertised the position on their respective social media pages and through word-of-mouth when visiting constituents in their respective districts. No official change however, was made to the appointment process.

“We haven’t been given direction to officially change the appointment process,” said Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers. “For that to happen, a council member would only need to draft a proposal and ask council to approve it.”

Michele Christi and Megan McCall were appointed to P&Z in October 2018; an addition P&Z seat was open after Rick Koch was elected to the Kyle City Council in November. Neither appointment process was affected by an amendment to change the process. Staff said they continued with both appointments the same way.

But concerns over geographic diversity among P&Z commissioners was raised prior to the appointment of Tim McHutchion, which was done by a 4-1 vote. Tenorio voted against the appointment.

Five of the six P&Z Commissioners live on the west side of Kyle following the city council’s decision.

“We’ve been having some difficulties getting some diversity as well as geographical diversity on this (planning and zoning) board,” Tenorio said. “We had six people from the east side apply.”

Tenorio, as well as residents who attended the Jan. 15, expressed concern over the lack of geographical diversity on the board. Tenorio said she is concerned that the board is unable to fully represent the city.

“I think the process that (you all) have installed to pick, and hand-select people has become political versus looking for people with the actual qualifications,” Tenorio said.

In years past, the selection process has adjusted and changed over time.

According to city officials, the appointment process had been the responsibility of the Kyle City Council.

Currently, P&Z appointments are made by the P&Z chair, the city manager, and city staff that works with P&Z. That group interviews prospective applicants and makes a recommendation to the city council for approval.

“Our policy, as adopted by this council, lays out our criteria for how we make a nomination and it does not clarify anything about east and west,” said Mayor Travis Mitchell. “With that said, in my mind, Mr. McHutchion has the best background to represent east and west.”

McHutchion was appointed with a 4-1 vote, with Tenorio voting against; two councilmembers, Shane Arabie and Dex Ellison, were not present at the meeting. At this time, city staff said there has been no official motion or action to adjust the appointment process to include instruction over diversity.

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