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Reporters Notebook

Friday, October 3, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Hey, it’s our med school, so it must be our sky bridge … Central Health is all for the proposed sky bridge between the new medical school at Seton Medical Center and an associated parking garage, as long as there’s some flexibility in the planning process. At Wednesday night’s regular meeting of the Central Health Board of Managers, President and CEO Patricia Young proposed the board send over a supporting resolution to the Austin City Council, which took up the issue during Thursday’s session. The bridge would run across 15th and Red River streets, and those in favor of the bridge say it would provide added safety for patients traveling between the garage and the hospital. Critics are worried that an aerial walkway will divert traffic from the street and go out of architectural style. Board member Clarke Heidrick was in favor of the bridge, but concerned about construction time. “I want to be sure that when that parking agreement comes to us … we don’t find in there that we’re locked into a very long period of time with the parking garage because of the bridge,” Heidrick said. “I just don’t want us to get stuck.” Board member Lynne Hudson was concerned about the added cost of a sky bridge. “A really high-cost investment is harder to walk away from sometimes, certainly (harder) than one that’s a moderate cost,” she said. Young assured the board the plans would remain flexible.

Hard to be a TV star on a public servant’s salary …  It’s never good to be the first one to try something new, but since it was saving Travis County Fire Marshal Herschel Lee from his weekly trip downtown, he seemed willing to give the county’s new videoconferencing system a try last Tuesday. Travis County is beginning a pilot video program designed to allow some of its more far-flung employees to meet with commissioners without having to show up in person. Lee, who discusses fire conditions in the county with commissioners each week, popped up on the video monitor Tuesday from his office on Airport Boulevard, and that’s when the snarky comments began. “Do you have your pajama bottoms on under the desk?” quipped Commissioner Gerald Daugherty. Lee took that in stride, saying, “No sir, but they sent me a list of things to not do,” he said. “I’m not to pick my nose. I’m supposed to wear blue. I have a whole list of things that I can do.” After a discussion of the benefits of the system and Lee’s recommendation not to put up a burn ban, Daugherty couldn’t resist just one more one-liner. “Did you have a makeup artist touch you up this morning?” he asked. “No, sir, we were trying to hold costs down,” Lee replied.

Wonder if she has a Dalmatian? …  As if she weren’t accomplished enough, we learned Wednesday that Council Member Laura Morrison is — in addition to her many other achievements — also an honorary firefighter. Morrison earned the honor when she was just 14, after she extinguished the flames when her brother caught fire. The information was revealed as Morrison was proclaiming October Fire Prevention Month.

Spelman shows off his moves … Like a daydream come to life in the middle of a long City Council meeting, good sport, great dancer and Council Member Bill Spelman wowed the crowd last week at the Austin Chapter of Pratham USA’s Bollywood Dance Off. Pratham USA works to provide education to children in India, and the dance-off is part of its Austin gala, which raises funds for the cause. Other performers included Ingrid Vanderveldt, Judge George Thomas and Matt Curtis. Click on the video below for a look at the festivities.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook was compiled from contributions by Elizabeth Pagano, Beth Cortez-Neavel and Mark Richardson.


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