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Whispers Roundup: Keeping secrets badly

Friday, September 26, 2014 by Austin Monitor

Whispers Roundup is a weekly column of items from our reporters’ notebooks.

“We won’t say a thing to anyone – we swear!” . . . Despite a handful of speeches at Wednesday’s Austin Neighborhoods Council forum imploring the candidates to keep endorsements secret until Monday, a few of the winners have already let the cat out of the bag. District 10 candidate Jason Meeker sent out a news release Thursday celebrating his endorsement, and mayoral candidate Steve Adler, District 2 candidate Delia Garza and District 7 candidate Melissa Zone all took to Twitter to announce their endorsements. (Given the fact that Garza was the only District 2 candidate at the forum, her endorsement wasn’t really a surprise.) No word on whether any endorsements will be revoked for violating confidentiality, but we will have the full list of endorsements, along with coverage of the forum.

After publication, the Austin Monitor was told that candidates were not, in fact, sworn to secrecy. Those who publicized their endorsements did so because they were told they earned the endorsement, and were excited to share the news with their supporters.

Council OKs downtown street performers . . . Though Thursday’s City Council meeting had a fairly uneventful morning, that doesn’t mean that nothing happened. Council did pass a busking resolution, unanimously, after hearing several supporters speak in favor of street performers. Mayor Lee Leffingwell pointed out that the item would have otherwise passed on consent, but those in support spoke anyway. The resolution asks the city manager to move forward with code amendments that will allow street performers and buskers to perform on public right of way, which is not currently allowed. Lee Page of the Society of American Magicians spoke on behalf of the group, who unanimously supported the change. Page said busking enhances the “whimsy and weird of Austin” not only for magicians, but for “balloon twisters, puppeteers, ventriloquists and jugglers and other allied arts.” The ordinance passed with edits from Council Member Chris Riley, in an attempt to avoid “pitfalls that could come with a having a whole lot of busking.” Riley said he had heard concerns from the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, whose members worried that busking could become a nuisance.

Council to hear update on SH45 SW . . . City Council will hear city staff’s latest take on the proposed State Highway 45 Southwest toll road next week. The Watershed Protection and Austin Transportation departments have reviewed recent transportation studies, environmental studies and environmental regulations pertaining to the contested roadway and will brief Council members at their weekly work session Tuesday. The city has a number of environmental and traffic concerns regarding the proposed toll road, and Council is on the record opposing it. Travis and Hays county officials are trying to fast-track the project before the political winds change after the first of the year and they lose their votes. Council’s weekly work session meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall. The full SH45 SW report is available online.

Development fees going up 25 percent next week . . . If you have some building plans to file with the city, you can save yourself a chunk of change by getting that taken care of by Tuesday. Effective Wednesday (Oct. 1), the Planning and Development Review Department will implement a 25 percent fee increase for certain commercial, residential, zoning, site plan, building plan and permitting applications, and new boat dock fees for commercial and residential sites. Additionally, the city will begin collecting previously adopted fees for projects that fall under the “change out” program (water heaters, HVAC units, etc.). The higher rates came from a 2012 study that showed that the city’s fees were well below the average for cities of similar size, so it decided to raise its fees by 25 percent a year until it catches up. You can find an updated fee schedule on the city’s website.

Leffingwell’s boyhood home gets historic status . . . Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who himself will gain a measure of historic status when his term is over, got to help make his family home a landmark Thursday. City Council voted Thursday to approve historic landmark status for Leffingwell’s boyhood home in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood. Leffingwell has not lived there for many years, and it is now owned by someone unrelated to him. The measure was approved on a 5-1-1 vote, with Council Member Mike Martinez the lone dissenting vote and Kathie Tovo abstaining because she owns property nearby. Martinez said in an email that he voted against it because the item was on the consent calendar and members were not provided a history of the residence. “This home appeared to be deemed historic because Mayor Leffingwell once lived there as a child,” he said. “We must move away from monetary motivation for historic preservation and provide tax exemptions to our citizens who actually need tax exemptions.” The current owner of the house will receive an annual tax abatement of more than $5,500.

Whispers Roundup was compiled from Monitor reporters Elizabeth Pagano and Mark Richardson.

Whispers Roundup was compiled from reports by Austin Monitor reporters Elizabeth Pagano, Jo Clifton and Tyler Whitson. – See more at:
Whispers Roundup was compiled from reports by Austin Monitor reporters Elizabeth Pagano, Jo Clifton and Tyler Whitson. – See more at:
Whispers Roundup was compiled from reports by Austin Monitor reporters Elizabeth Pagano, Jo Clifton and Tyler Whitson. – See more at:

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