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Reporters Notebook: Lawn renamed for Mathias

Friday, October 17, 2014 by Austin Monitor

Council renames part of Auditorium Shores for Mathias … Council members voted 7-0 Thursday to name the east lawn of Auditorium Shores in honor of Vic Mathias, the former CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.  The honor was proposed earlier this year, but the idea almost didn’t make it out of the starting gate. Almost immediately after Mathias was nominated, there were questions about his possible involvement in a move by some in the city to block a proposed Fair Housing Ordinance in 1968. The Austin Monitor dug deeply into the city’s archives and old news clippings at the Austin History Center and could find no evidence that Mathias was involved that or any other racist activities during his 1957 to1983 tenure at the Chamber. Other searches came up with the same result. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said that, in the time since she made the motion to delay the naming and send it through a more extensive process, she was happy to say that none of the rumors surrounding Matthias’ were substantiated. “While family and friends already knew this, I believe the public now has the confidence in this naming choice. It’s unfortunate that family and friends had to defend against something that did not take place,” said Cole. Mathias’ son, Matt Mathias, spoke at the renaming. He thanked Council members and said it had been “a very humbling experience, on a number of levels.” Mathias died in 2013 at age 86, and will now be remembered for his part in creating events such as the multicultural Austin Aqua Festival and working to turn Austin’s lakefront into an area of beautiful parks and trails.

How common are ethics complaints against commissioners? … With all of the talk about ethics complaints against city commission members, one might wonder how often these allegations take place. Thanks to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole this week, we have an answer. Over the past two years, there were nine complaints against commissioners. Two of those complaints went through the public Ethics Review Commission process. Seven went through the Auditor’s office, with one of those still pending. Of those that went through the Auditor’s office, only the Zero Waste Advisory Commission conflict-of-interest allegations were substantiated and a report was issued. City Council disavowed themselves of that report Wednesday, as we reported here.

We assume it’s because you can’t get Hummers anymore … Council members were set Thursday to approve one of the many regular Texas Local Government Purchasing Cooperative contracts — this one for two Chevrolet Tahoes for the city’s EMS department at a cost of $64,880. Then the office of Council Member Bill Spelman wondered if the Tahoes might be a bit too heavy duty for the use described by EMS officials. EMS officials promptly withdrew the item and noted that the department would “purchase a smaller, more efficient vehicle.”

Reporter’s Notebook items were contributed by reporters Mike Kanin, Elizabeth Pagano and Mark Richardson.

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