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Reporter’s Notebook: Zim appointments continue

Sunday, May 3, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

More nomination fun … District 6 City Council Member Don Zimmerman continued his streak of commission nominations last week. Zimmerman posted his latest round of picks Thursday on the Council message board, and they include Antonio Buehler to the Public Safety Commission and Mackenzie Kelly to the Commission for Women. Buehler founded the Peaceful Streets Project, after he was arrested on New Year’s Day while videotaping an incident in which he alleged that police officers were abusing a woman. Buehler subsequently sued the Austin Police Department, and the lawsuit was dismissed in February. Zimmerman’s Commission for Women appointment, Kelly, is a former opponent for District 6. Late into the campaign, Kelly distinguished herself by coming out as “pro gamer” in the Gamergate controversy over sexism in the community. At one point, Kelly plagiarized a Clickhole article about the scandal. (Clickhole is a spinoff of The Onion.)Matt Stillwell, who Zimmerman nominated for the Arts Commission, is also a former opponent. In addition to those nominations, Zimmerman will also nominate Michael Benaglio for the Board of Adjustment, David Gray for the Commission on Seniors, Paul Martin for the Airport Advisory Commission, Jaime Mendoza for the Commission on Immigrant Affairs and Tim Miller for the Human Rights Commission.

Audit and Finance looks to speed purchasing questions … At its last meeting, the City Council Audit and Finance Committee took some time to determine which purchasing items it should — and shouldn’t — review. So far, the new Council has spent a lot of time reviewing this type of item, which is within the committee’s purview. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo suggested that contracts go directly to Council, unless the contract is a new type or there were concerns about a specific contract. Council Member Leslie Pool agreed, saying, “I don’t want to slow down the process of the city. There are people’s livelihoods expecting us to make good on our promises.” Council Member Ellen Troxclair suggested that there be a dollar threshold, with contracts over a certain amount going to committee. She also said it may be more expedient to route contracts that seemed likely to draw questions through the committee first, instead of having them go to Council, then the committee, then back to Council. Council Member Pio Renteria said his only concern is making sure contracts move forward in a timely manner. He urged staff to provide backup so that, perhaps, some questions could be answered in advance. Both he and Tovo pointed out that Council’s question and answer process was a public, transparent way to get inquiries answered outside of meetings. City Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart explained that, in the past, staff would not bring specific contracts to the committee. “We’ve tried to keep business moving. We’ve tried to listen closely to what the new Council members say they are interested in. We don’t always get it right,” said Hart.

Neighborhood election heats up … Last week, a letter circulated by former Crestview Neighborhood Association president Chip Harris caused a bit of a ruckus on Twitter. The letter (pictured below) urges residents to join CNA and vote for candidates who will commit to keeping the Crestview Station gate at Morrow Road. According to the letter, “Some residents in the new development want to open Morrow up and are planning to take over the leadership to impose a new plan that values convenience over safety and quality of life. Four of the seven officer positions that are up for election at the May 11 meeting have candidates running for them that live in the new development.”

Heaven help us … “We have stayed in family homes in Portland (Oregon) where the residents have to park their cars blocks away from their houses. … Is this what we really want for our city? To become another New York or Chicago or London?” Coronado Hills resident Sammy Easterday, on the perils of Accessory Dwelling Units and reduced parking minimums.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook items come from the notebook of Elizabeth Pagano.

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