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Reporter’s Notebook: AAS changes endorsement

Monday, December 1, 2014 by Austin Monitor

Casar finally gets paper’s backing in District 4 race … In a Friday editorial titled “Casar for City Council District 4,” the Austin American-Statesman reversed its District 4 endorsement. While the editorial board had already rescinded its endorsement of Laura Pressley, the editorial staff had not gone so far as to endorse opposing candidate Greg Casar until last week. The article reads, in part, “It became clear that Pressley’s views exceeded what was known to us at the time, and the manner in which she chose to address inquiries about those views did not suggest an appreciation for the transparency required of a public servant.” The paper goes on to explain that while it still has reservations about Casar, he “has the potential to sort through the noise and focus on what is important to this city.” In the other races, the Statesman endorsed: Steve Adler (mayor), Ora Houston (District 1), Susana Almanza (District 3), Jimmy Flannigan (District 6), Jeb Boyt (District 7), Ed Scruggs (District 8) and Mandy Dealey (District 10).

District 4 campaigns get creative before debate …  Though for most of us last week was most significantly Thanksgiving week, it was also the week before early voting for City Council’s runoff election began. Unsurprisingly, District 4 remained very active, with candidate Laura Pressley challenging opponent Greg Casar to an “untraditional format of conversation this week,” circulating a flyer going after Casar as an unemployed “WDP” lobbyist (WDP = Workers Defense Project) and “self-admitted atheist,” which she contrasted with her work as an entrepreneur and businesswoman with a “strong belief in God.” Pressley’s campaign also spent the weekend circulating a somewhat-menacing-looking “important message” that led to a YouTube campaign video (shown below). Though there have been no updates on the conversational challenge from Pressley, a more traditional Love North Austin District 4 debate scheduled for tonight promises to be entertaining. The debate will take place at 6:30 p.m. at St John’s Episcopal Church, 11201 Parkfield Drive. The District 7 debate will follow at 8 p.m.


Davis lectures news media on getting it right …  We are certain that it must be frustrating for elected officials to have to read and hear the news media’s interpretation of what they say and do. Quite often, reporters hear from officeholders and others who complain, “That’s not what I said,” or more often, “That’s not what I meant.” Travis County Commissioner Ron Davis, who has represented Precinct 1 for 16 years, took an opportunity last week to turn a presentation on the county’s projected debt load into something of a lecture — or maybe a teaching moment — to implore the media to get it right. In the wake of Austin voters’ recent rejection of a $1 billion bond issue for urban rail and road construction, commissioners are rightly nervous about putting a bond issue before the voters. Staff from the budget office report that if Travis County calls a bond election in May, it would likely ask voters to approve $276 million to build a new Civil and Family Courthouse. It’s fairly clear that the project is needed, as current courtroom facilities were declared insufficient a decade ago. Davis said he is concerned that news media are not reporting the numbers surrounding the project correctly. “The one question I was going to ask in this whole presentation is the one on the family civil courthouse,” he said, “and especially if the media is revealing different numbers than what we’re hearing here today. I really wish, and I hope, and we need to really stress this and emphasize this more than anything else, is to ensure that the media get the right numbers when we go forward. Otherwise, it is going to confuse our voters.” Davis has a reputation for abstaining on votes on budget items with which he disagrees rather than voting no. An article in the Statesman earlier this year pointed out that Davis abstained on 19 of 26 votes that would have increased spending in the 2016 budget. Therefore, it is unsurprising that someone who watches the bottom line as closely as Davis would implore the news media to get it right when the time comes to call a bond election. “I just want to emphasize that, because this here [the bond proposal] is what the public is looking at today, is this amount [$276 million] of money. I know this is just a base, you are just talking about a base deal, but the media hopefully will stay on top of this and reveal the exact numbers on what we’re talking about,” he said. We’ll do our best, Commissioner Davis. And we will be counting on you to help us get the right numbers.

(Reporter’s Notebook was compiled from reports by Elizabeth Pagano and Mark Richardson.)

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