WHOLE Enchilada Subscription Drive: Will you help us grow? (And, no, we’re not asking for money!)

It’s You – the people of Waco – that make Waco a terrific place to live!  You are the not-so-secret ingredient that’s making Waco better and better.  Our job at Act Locally Waco is to help you do that!  Will you help us help you?

Every Friday Act Locally Waco pumps out the information you need to stay involved and engaged in Waco.  It’s all there in our free weekly e-newsletter, The WHOLE Enchilada.  November is “subscription drive month” for The WHOLE Enchilada.  Will you help us grow?   We are asking all friends of Act Locally Waco to basically do two things: 1. Subscribe yourself (if you haven’t already), and 2. Encourage your friends to do the same!

Since 2013, The Act Locally Waco weekly newsletter – The WHOLE Enchilada — has been providing engaged Wacoans (That’s You again!) with the information you need to enjoy Waco and get involved in building up your community. 

Here are a few examples of the kinds of information we have gathered for you from the last few weeks:

  • Statements from the mayor/city council candidates to help you understand how they would approach the job if elected
  • A “plain English” translation of the “impact fee” proposal– an important, but complicated issue for the future of Waco that City Council has been working on for years.
  • An introduction to Tiffany Gallegos Whitley who will be leading the new “Upskill Waco” workforce initiative at Prosper Waco.
  • Updates on Meals and Wheels, Caritas, Christian Women’s Job Corps and other non-profits.  Information to keep you informed about what’s happening with them and how you can help.
  • Events from the YMCA, the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Grassroots Waco, the Mayborn Museum, Keep Waco Beautiful, Creative Waco, McLennan County Community College and countless others so you can plan your weeks and days.  
  • Job opportunities for example at the COVE and the Salvation Army among others. 

And that’s just a taste of what you find in The WHOLE Enchilada each week.  It is truly full to the edge of the plate with Waco goodness, plus – it’s free!

We currently have 3,111 subscribers, and our goal is to add 1,000 more.  Imagine the benefit to Waco of 1,000 more involved, engaged people!

If you are a social media follower, but you haven’t subscribed yet, go ahead and sign up!  Our current subscribers love the convenience of having everything pulled together each week and delivered to their email. If you are already a subscriber, please help us out by sharing The WHOLE Enchilada with 2 or 3 (or 10!) friends each week during November, and encouraging them to subscribe.   We’ll be posting the subscription link regularly on Facebook during November – so please share that as well.

Whether it’s patronizing an art opening, volunteering to help a child in the foster system, participating in an online auction for a local cause you care about, or finding out about opportunities to pick up litter – The WHOLE Enchilada makes it easy for you to stay informed so you can get involved.  Subscribe today!  Help us grow!  

“Act Locally Waco has been a really successful resource for us. Ashley Bean Thornton and all the people at Act Locally Waco have been willing to share all the things that we do around Waco to try and make it better. ”  — Ashley Millerd  Crownover, Keep Waco Beautiful

“Just about everything I’ve learned about Waco, aside from the Silos and Baylor, I’ve learned from Act Locally Waco!” — Ferrell Foster, brand new Waco resident 

“By subscribing to Act Locally Waco, I am always in the know of things that are happening within our community and amongst my neighbors.” — Cuevas Peacock, community volunteer and cheerleader  

“The Whole Enchilada is one of my weekly favorites. As both a subscriber and a contributor, I feel equally blessed by the efforts that Ashley and her team put forth in bringing such vital and unifying information to our community. Act Locally Waco and The Whole Enchilada are two of my favorite go-to sources for what’s new and happening in our community and how we are growing together to make Waco a great place to live for everyone!” — Lydia Tate, Christian Women’s Job Corps  


Better Living for Texans: New year, available curriculums, & partnering with you

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

Every year we like to provide program updates and share new curriculum. Do not worry, next month we will back to regular scheduled fruit and veggie facts.

Greetings from the McLennan County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service! My name is Lindsey, and I am the Extension agent for the Better Living for Texans (BLT) Program. BLT is a nutrition education program for adults and youth who are SNAP participants or SNAP eligible, and in October we kicked off our 26th year of serving Texans.

Programs are free and rooted in research. Evidence-based information empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives. Whether we meet in-person, online, virtually, or through a combination of methods, we are here to serve you. This monthly update will feature our available curriculum. You will see that BLT is for all Texans.

Curriculum Highlights: 


A Fresh Start to a Healthier You! – Target Audience: Adults

Promotes increasing fruit and vegetable intake, food safety, and food resource management.

A Fresh Start to a Healthier You! – ONLINE – Target Audience: Adults

Promotes increasing fruit and vegetable intake, food safety, and food resource management.

Conducted completely online.

Get the Facts – Target Audience: Adults

Teaches how to read Nutrition Facts Labels and identify portion sizes, sodium, fat, and added sugar found in foods.

Healthier Carbohydrates -Target Audience: Adults

Promotes a healthful eating pattern to prevent or delay diet related chronic diseases

Be Well, Live Well – Target Audience: Older Adults

Promotes nutrition and physical activity specifically targeting older adults

Color Me Healthy – Target Audience: Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Provides fun, innovative, interactive learning opportunities on physical activity and healthy eating.

Balancing Food & Play – Target Audience: 3rd-5th graders

Promotes good nutrition and healthy weight; physical activity; limiting screen time; increase fruit and vegetable intake; drinking milk with meals and water with snacks.

Choose Healthy – Target Audience: Middle Schoolers

Teaches about MyPlate, physical activity (energy balance), making healthy food choices, and choosing healthy drinks.


Growing and Nourishing Healthy Communities – Target Audience: Adults

Teaches how to build gardens and grow fresh vegetables.

Learn, Grow, Eat and GO! – Target Audience: 3rd-5th graders

Enhances gardening skills and increased fruit and vegetable intake


Walk Across Texas! (WAT!) – Target Audience: all ages

Promotes increased physical activity through tracking miles walked

Walk N Talk – Target Audience: all ages

Promotes increased physical activity – WAT! with added nutrition messages in a discussion format. Discussion topics are: 1. Fruits and Vegetables, 2. Rethink Your Drink! (hydration, flavored waters, sugary drinks, etc.)

If you have questions, want to plan and brainstorm, or want to hear more, please reach out to Lindsey at McLennan County’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office:

Phone, 254-757-5180 or email, Lindsey.Breunig@ag.tamu.edu 

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com

Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez is an Extension Agent for the Better Living for Texans program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine but now calls Waco home. A graduate from Baylor University, she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy Ann just saying hello.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Some tips for managing campaign pain and the post-election blues

By Becca Muncy

With just a few days until Election Day, tensions may be running high around you. A new study from the American Psychological Association found that 68% of American adults, across all political affiliations, say that the election is a significant source of stress in their lives. So, if this election season has you feeling anxious, frustrated, or burnt out, you’re not alone. Here are some ways to manage election stress and fatigue now and on November 3:

  • Set boundaries for yourself. Randal Boldt, Senior Associate Director, Training Director & Supervising Psychologist at the Baylor Counseling Center, says that the most important thing you can do to manage election stress is set boundaries. He says that, “caring about political outcomes is a healthy part of supporting a society,” but acknowledges that, “it can also be overwhelming at times.” Setting boundaries, like limiting your news consumption on Election Day, can help you from getting too overwhelmed.
  • Find good news. In addition to setting boundaries around news consumption, seeking out good news can help, too. During an election season, it can seem like all the news is negative, inflammatory, or frustrating. Keeping up with current events is a good thing, but counterbalancing negative election news with inspiring and positive news might help keep you from getting too overwhelmed. Need help finding good news? Take a look at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine or the Solutions Journalism Network, or follow accounts like @goodnews_movement on social media.

No matter the outcome of the election, at least some people are going to experience disappointment if their chosen candidate loses the presidential race. And even if you are the coolest, calmest, and most collected you’ve ever been on Election Day, you can still feel grief over your candidate losing. Here are some ways to handle those negative feelings:

  • Remember that disappointment is a normal thing. Boldt says acknowledging and facing your grief is important. This year may feel particularly stressful and the election may seem extra divisive, but remember that disappointment and grief are normal parts of life, no matter the circumstances. Acknowledging and naming your feelings of grief or disappointment is the first step of healing.
  • Take a break or talk to someone. Allow yourself a break from your normal tasks, as you would if you were grieving anything else. Before Election Day, find a trusted person you can talk to and process your feelings with in case things don’t go your way.
  • Find a way to move forward. Boldt says channeling your disappointment into action can be helpful. “Feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming, but after some healthy grieving… putting your emotion and energy into changing the future can be very healing.” Remember that there are still ways you can help those in your community, regardless of who is commander in chief.

Even if you are unhappy about the outcome of the election, that doesn’t diminish the fact that you participated and did your part to make your community better. Plus, the great thing about the U.S. election cycle is that you’ll have many more opportunities to participate in elections. From national to state to local government, from primaries to midterms and everything in between – there’s always next year!

Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Civic Insights: Who Pays for that Pipe, Part V

(City council, school board, planning commission, county commissioners – these groups and several others represent us.  They do the day to day work of running our community. It is our responsibility to keep informed about their work so that we can help them represent us effectively.  “Civic Insights” by Jeffrey Vitarius is a regular feature of Act Locally Waco.  Its purpose is to help us understand decisions that shape our community so that we can participate effectively as informed, engaged residents of Waco. – ALW)   

By Jeffrey Vitarius

We are finally coming to the end of the long impact fee process. This policy has been a goal of the city since it adopted the comprehensive twenty-five year plan in 2016. There has been intense study and discussion of the potential policy since Freese and Nichols (consulting firm) was hired to produce the study back in December of 2018. We have been writing about it here since early September. Last week, the City Council took its first vote on the initial policy that has been generated by this process. Another vote is scheduled for next Tuesday (November 6th) and this should be the final step. 

Back in September, we started this discussion with a broad look at what an impact fee policy is. We moved from there to the legal process for establishing an impact fee, and finally to an examination of the pipe-related and road-related details of the Freese and Nichols report . That report will serve as the basis for any impact fee policy in Waco. Here in our final post, we will finally move from what impact fees could be to what they should be by examining the policy that was approved last week and the discussion that has occurred at the City Council level regarding how best to proceed.  

The Policy

As a brief reminder, the Freese and Nichols report established the maximum allowable impact fees for water, wastewater, and roadways (the end of the could process). The results of that study are below. 

All of these maximums are based upon single-family home equivalency. So, the numbers above are the maximum allowable impact fees for a single-family home. For example, a single-family home in service area seven (near China Spring) could not have an impact fee above $6,328 ($1,804 – water + $3,574 – wastewater + $950 – roadway). Developments that are not made up of single-family homes have a maximum that is scaled based on calculations of use. So if a development is anticipated to use twice as much of the infrastructure as a single-family home, the maximum impact fee for that development is twice that of the single-family home (there is a lot more detail on this front in the last two posts). 

The policy the city is in the process of adopting (found in more detailed form in the ordinance that was voted on last week) starts with base impact fees that are 100% of the allowable fees established above. However, to this base fee a number of exemptions, waivers, and limits are applied.

Below is a brief list of most but not all of these adjustments with some explanation of each:

  • Residential Infill Waiver – single family homes in the “residential infill area” (map below) would have all impact fees waived
  • Traditional Commercial Corridor Credit – non-single family home developments in the “traditional commercial corridor area” (map below) would have impact fees reduced by 50%
  • Credits for construction of system-wide facilities – from a really broad view, if the development involves the construction of system-wide facilities (those kinds of infrastructure that are not just for the development itself) a credit to account for this construction would be applied to impact fees
  • Affordable Housing Waiver – if a development has at least 25% affordable housing units (costing  less than 30% of a household’s income for households making less than 80% of Waco’s median income) and an additional 25% that are either affordable or “workforce” units (costing  less than 30% of a household’s income for households making between 80%-120% of Waco’s median income) impact fees would be waived. There are additional allowances for +sale units as well. Eagle eyed observers may spot that some of these percentages have appeared before in discussions of the CDBG program
  • Existing Business Waiver – if an existing business expands or relocates and the project fits with a collection of conditions (for example being open at least 2 years already, and documentations showing that the expansion or relocation will provide at least as many jobs as before) all impact fees would be waived.
  • Phase-in elements – the policy has an effective date of June 1st, 2021. The fees would also be phased in over the course of five years (hitting 100% in June of 2024). There is also a waiver that would apply to projects that are nearly complete. 

Each of these policy adjustments has some reasoning behind it and in most cases represents an effort to avoid disincentivizing certain kinds of development. It’s economics short-hand to say that if you make something more expensive you will get less of it (like most economics, I am sure there are disputes on this point, but the general rule remains). If affordable housing became more expensive to build due to impact fees, the theory goes that some number of units would not be built because of the increased cost. So, the above adjustments tend to exempt or reduce impact fees for the kinds of development that are high priorities for the city (infill residential, core commercial, affordable housing, etc). In addition to these adjustments, the policy gives the city the ability to grant waivers on a case by case basis as well. 

The phase-in elements provide developers with some time to incorporate the new impact fees into their calculations and decision making.

The downside to these adjustments is that they make a complicated policy more complicated. Much of the discussion at City Council hit upon this point.  

The Discussion

Over the course of the last two City Council meetings (10/06 and 10/20) there has been substantial discussion of the policy outlined above. In general, there has been support for impact fees in theory. Most points of concern have been focused on the specifics of the policy and its timeline for implementation.

The committee formed to analyze and make recommendations on the impact fee policy (the Capital Improvements Advisory Committee – CIAC) recommended the above policy with a single exception: that the implementation of commercial impact fees be delayed for six months (essentially pushing the effective date of commercial impact fees from June 1st, 2021 to December 1st, 2021). 

This recommendation exception highlights one of the key elements of the discussion around this policy. The commercial impact fee calculation is substantially more complicated than the residential impact fee calculation. This makes sense, given the variety of developments that fit under the “commercial” umbrella. For commercial developments, the variety of kinds, sizes, locations, and exemptions all factor into the impact fee calculation. The city is working on a calculator to assist developers in navigating the detailed points of this part of the policy. 

Additionally, concerns were focused on whether this policy strikes the right balance between funding the needed infrastructure projects and making sure not to disincentivize development. Since this policy is new, there were also questions about when and how it could be changed. 

Input that was received from the public raised similar concerns and questions regarding balance and alternatives.

Arguments were made that the substantial phase-in elements of the policy and semi-annual review by the CIAC allowed for adjustment before the full impact of the fees would be felt by developers. Additionally, the importance of associating the costs of development with development rather than existing tax and ratepayers was emphasized. Ultimately the City Council voted 5-1 to approve the policy in its first vote. The Council will vote for a second and final time next Tuesday.

Thank you for walking through this review of impact fees with me. I hope to bring you something new or at least different in November. If there are any particular civic policy or issues you would like me to take more of a look at, please feel free to comment here. Thanks again.

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and now serves as that organization’s treasurer and Pride Planning Chair. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.