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Council sends Auditorium Shores renaming to 90-day vetting process

Friday, May 23, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Austin City Council members sent a proposal to rename a section of Auditorium Shores after late civic leader Vic Mathias to a full 90-day vetting process. The move, debated in front of the friends and family of the former Austin Chamber head yesterday, came after questions surfaced over whether Mathias was involved in the municipally painful 1968 repeal of the city’s first fair housing ordinance.


Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who co-sponsored the item, made the motion to send the Mathias naming through the full process, which will include at least one stop at the city’s parks board. “It’s out of respect for Mr. Mathias – because I think these allegations will be dismissed during the park proceeding – and out of respect for the park, and the public process, I would like to recommend that we submit Vic Mathias as a name for consideration.”


Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who provided the only vote for moving immediately ahead with the renaming, was incensed. He called the questions over Mathias’ involvement in the fair housing issue “vicious rumors” and questioned his colleagues about why Mathias was being “singled out.”


Supporters of the renaming – including former Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley, current Pct. 2 Travis County Commissioner and former Mayor Bruce Todd, attorney Pete Winstead, and a host of other local luminaries –filled chambers to argue for moving forward. They cast Mathias, who passed away in January, as a key motivator behind Austin’s economic growth. They also reminded Council members of his role in Aqua Fest, as well as his passion for Town Lake, now named Lady Bird Lake.


However, concerns about the process and why there was such a rush to do it remained, with Council offices hearing from citizens worrying about the propriety of the move.


And though Leffingwell tried to push the renaming through without further vetting, his colleagues were not inclined to go along. Council Member Mike Martinez echoed Cole’s statement. “Supporting the motion to go through the naming process is a way for us to support Mr. Mathias and move this forward,” he began. “I have no reason to believe that there is any link or connection to some of the statements that have been made.”


Martinez also linked his caution to the community value placed on Auditorium Shores.


In the end, only the Mayor voted against using the longer process. Observers noted no small amount of frustration on the part of family members.


Conclusive evidence about Mathias’ involvement in the issue has yet to be uncovered. Todd told Council members Thursday that he is sure that Mathias did not work to repeal the ordinance.

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