Today we had our annual City Council Goals Retreat. ‘Retreat’ is a bit of an exaggeration—we retreated all the way to the community room in the Police facility. It’s a day-long session where the council and department heads hash out the goals for next year, from which the budget is developed.

The day started with my rather vicious attack on Interim City Manager Kevin Lahner, followed by some contentious dialogue about bygones, and then some kindergarten-level discussion about desirable words regarding communication. The moderator of all this was Mike Conduff of the Elim Group, who did an admirable job of defusing tensions early, managing our time when needed, and staying out of the way when we were being productive all by ourselves. Mike exceeded my expectations, but the real credit goes to Kevin Lahner and Pat McGrail for having the foresight to hire him. His presence as a neutral party enabled some rather speedy trust-building.

So we agreed on some ground rules for today and for ever, including McGrail’s “Don’t shoot the messenger” and Holmes’ “Don’t feel shot.”

We talked about so many things I couldn’t possibly remember them all, but here’s a few:

We reconfirmed our desire to get a library improvement option on this November’s ballot. There will also be at least one Town Hall meeting to discuss the library. One concern mentioned was that not enough people show up to Town Hall meetings; even the most controversial issue of the last decade, the Town Center Library, only attracted a couple of hundred people to the two Town Hall meetings in 2005. I suggested that we announce a Town Hall meeting to discuss a $50 million library, but everyone thought I was kidding. Heck, we could have sold tickets to that.

We talked about taxes and debt. Last year the council adopted a lower tax rate, the so-called “effective tax rate,” that was about a penny less than the prior year. With Keller’s continued growth in taxable values on existing property, the effective tax rate will almost certainly be lower again this year. While the council toyed with the idea of trying to once again adopt the lower effective tax rate, we tentatively agreed that all the additional firefighters we’re going to need will probably make that impossible. Of course, there was no appetite for an increased tax rate—anyone who expressed such an idea would have “felt shot.”

I begged for, and finally received, permission to read the draft version of a certain report. I was made to swear that I would not blog on how the sausages were made, at least not while they’re being made.

We were brutally unfair to Dona Roth Kinney, Parks & Recreation Director. We dangled $48 million in front of her, and then schemed how we would take it away from her. Actually, we discussed the incredibly speculative business of gas well revenue that will be gleaned from a thousand feet below the Parks At Town Center. There is much, much more to be discussed about this.

As usual, I debated the merits of the Keller Crime Control and Prevention District with Police Chief Mark Hafner. As usual, I lost. There will be a renewal of the Street Maintenance Sales Tax on the ballot in November. The city attorney is investigating whether we can rebalance street funding and KCCPD funding on that ballot measure. Stay tuned.

We discussed economic development. I monologued how proactive economic development necessarily violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. I think I quoted both George Washington and Che Guevara. They patted me on the head and moved on.

There will likely be a resolution on a City Council agenda in the near future establishing a perk for City Council members—an annual membership at the Keller Pointe. I’ll certainly vote for it, even though I don’t expect to use the Pointe. I’ve long felt that City Council members should be compensated for their time. One bad council decision could cost the taxpayers millions, so why would we want to dissuade otherwise excellent candidates because they couldn’t afford to give up the time? If the Pointe perk is passed, councilmen will get a $500 fringe benefit for their 500+ hours of annual service.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor McGrail pointed to one of Mike’s metrics that had been posted at the beginning—What must happen for me to walk away happy? I replied that I only needed to walk away, that I was as happy as ever as a result of this meeting.

One soberly realizes that one has a reputation for withering criticism when one declares his happiness and the entire room erupts in applause. OK, I deserve that. This post is an answer to Mitch’s special request that I acknowledge, for a change, when things go well. Gladly.