Monday, April 27, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Reporter’s Notebook: Pressley deposed

Pressley denies bad press caused election loss … Former City Council candidate Laura Pressley believes that errors made by Travis County, not the bad publicity she received before last November’s election and the December runoff, were the reasons that she lost to Greg Casar, now the District 4 Council member. Pressley explained her views during an April 16 deposition taken in connection with her lawsuit against Casar. Pressley is attempting to throw out the December runoff election results. While much of the deposition had to do with Pressley’s interpretation of laws relating to electronic voting machines, she managed not to answer many of those questions, refusing to respond to almost every hypothetical put to her by Chuck Herring, Casar’s attorney.

Herring tried to get Pressley to admit that perhaps negative news stories about her and her beliefs had more to do with her loss than any perceived inaccuracy in vote counting. Casar won the election by 1,291 votes.

After discussing several articles about her views on fluoride, Smart Meters and the possible role of someone other than the recognized 9/11 conspirators in the attack on the World Trade Center, Herring asked her this question: “So, Ms. Pressley, from looking at those reports, we can see, would you agree with me now, a lot of negative reporting on you between your high point, that Oct. 13 endorsement by the Statesman, through November and well into December 2014?” The Statesman endorsed Pressley but rescinded the endorsement after those stories appeared.

Pressley replied, “So I may not agree that it’s all negative, so … it depends on your perspective. Voters have different perspectives of … there are some voters that will not vote for a candidate endorsed by the Chronicle. There are some voters that will not — not vote for a candidate endorsed by the Statesman.” When pressed, however, she could not name any of those voters.

Herring also questioned Pressley about her testimony before Council that urged it not to pass the resolution requesting that the Legislature and Congress pass legislation to ban military-style weapons. Herring quoted the Chronicle story in which Pressley said, “Do you understand that the military-standard handgun issued is a 9 mm? … That’s what I carry and that’s what the majority of the citizens of Texas use.” Pressley confirmed that she had made that statement. Herring then asked: “And do you carry a 9 mm?” She replied, “I have a 9 mm.” He asked if she had a concealed handgun permit and she said she did not. Judge Dan Mills, a visiting judge who is handling the case, instructed David Rogers, Pressley’s attorney, to rewrite his pleadings and present to the court something more than mere allegations about voting irregularities. After Rogers does so, Herring may be expected to file further objections in an attempt to get the suit dismissed before trial.

A toll by any other name … In response to criticism from Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board members in March, the organization’s communications department gave an extensive presentation on its future communication plans. Rehashing accomplishments at CTRMA’s April 22 meeting, Steve Pustelnyk, director of community relations for the MoPac Improvement Project, reviewed the results of recent focus groups his team undertook. The most significant revelation Pustelnyk’s team discovered is that residents tended to remain uninformed about the project besides knowing when it would end. “Frankly, at the time, they didn’t feel like we really did a bad job of reaching out to them, they just didn’t care and hadn’t tried to find information,” he said. “Generally, not a lot of effort on the part of people to understand what we’re doing.” However, Pustelnyk did poll focus groups on their reaction to the name of dynamically priced toll roads, or toll roads whose prices would shift depending on traffic. They found “variable tolling” went over better than dynamic tolling, congestion pricing, adjustable tolling and flexible tolling, making “variable” the new official term for the toll roads.

What Is Art, Part II … Continuing its musings on the nature of public art, City Council emphasized art’s role in healing from trauma during discussion of a $68,000 contract with an artist to help renovate the Austin Shelter for Women and Children. Council subsequently — with a unanimous vote — sent the contract and a broader debate about the merits of art in public places to committee, with a time-certain vote on the contract next month. Council Member Ellen Troxclair pulled the contract and questioned whether the money in the contract could be more effectively used in other areas of the renovation project, such as funding additional beds. Council Member Ora Houston voiced her support for the renovation project, but said she could not give full backing to the art project, a sentiment echoed by Council Member Don Zimmerman. Council also recommended working on the art piece with shelter clients to both aid their healing process and potentially cut costs. Approval would have allowed local artist Virginia Fleck to begin collaborating on design work with landscape architects and shelter clients.

Not bad, considering … “We are transit-ready. This is the city’s first attempt at a Transit-Oriented Development, and considering we don’t have transit, we’ve made remarkable progress,” said Fred Evins, redevelopment project manager with the Economic Development Department, discussing Seaholm-area development at last week’s Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook items were contributed by Jo Clifton, Courtney Griffin, Sunny Sone and Elizabeth Pagano.



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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority: The governing arm of Central Texas transportation. The board of directors is appointed by the governor and the Travis and Williamson County Commissioners Court. 1.5 stars on Yelp.

Laura Pressley: Among other things, Laura Pressley ran for the District 4 seat of City Council in 2014. After losing that election, Pressley sued, launching a larger battle against electronic voting that persisted well after the election concluded.

MoPac: Texas State Highway Loop 1 is also known as "MoPac" after the Missouri Pacific Railroad it was built on. The scenic highway runs from the beginning of the State Highway 45 to US 183.

Real Estate Council of Austin: 501(c)6 for "more than 1,700 commercial real estate professionals representing the top leaders in the Central Texas business community." RECA is a donor to the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent of the Austin Monitor.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD): Mixed-use residential and commercial areas designed to be compact and walkable.

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