Monday, June 15, 2015 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Swimming with the sharks

Kitchen argues for longer lunch break … City Council Member Ann Kitchen expressed concern Thursday about the length of lunch breaks during Council meetings. When Mayor Steve Adler suggested continuing for 30 minutes after citizen communications closed just before 1 p.m, Kitchen protested. “I’d like to take a break for lunch,” she said. “I think that’s healthier for us. I don’t have a preference on how long, but it should be at least 30 minutes.” Adler agreed to break, then return at 2 p.m. to take up discussion of the Bluebonnet Hills preservation district. But after Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo reminded members that they would be spending their lunch break in executive session, Kitchen asked for additional time on top of the one-hour break. “I’d like to tack on about 15 minutes of break,” she said. “I know that we often come back later, and in effect that’s what happens. But I think we should recognize that some time for a break is important.” Council gave Kitchen more than she asked for; members reconvened after an hour-and-a-half away from the dais.

He’s still with the sharks … After a lengthy discussion about House Bill 3405, Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District board members put off any more updates on other legislation that might affect them soon, but not because they were tired. “In fact, I’m going to do some full disclosure here,” said John Dupnik, general manager for the district. “I didn’t put a lot of preparation into going through these bills.” Dupnik said the district had hired a lobbyist to put a presentation together on environmental legislation in the rest of Texas, but the lobbyist was unable to attend the meeting because he was out of town. “He takes an annual vacation every year after session where he camps out on San José’s Island and fishes for sharks for a week,” Dupnik said. “He’s clearly comfortable in the company of sharks.” BSEACD’s lobbyist will be able to present at the board’s next regular meeting on June 25 once he’s done catching those sharks.

So that wasn’t a waste of time after all … Taking lessons learned from his time in court, City Council Member Greg Casar addressed questions about the petition for the Bluebonnet Hills historic district, and whether tallies were accurate, with a bit of fresh wisdom and humor. “I’ve gotten a chance to learn a good bit about paper ballots versus electronic ballots,” he said. “It’s been my conclusion that electronic voting is one of the hardest to tamper (with). … As we go through these, however, (if) we can help to move to an electronic system that’s harder to tamper with and is accurate, I’m very supportive of that.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook items come from the notebooks of Audrey McGlinchy, Courtney Griffin and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District: An entity charged with oversight of a portion the Edwards Aquifer. Groundwater Conservation Districts are established through Texas State legislative approval, under a state law first approved in the 1950s. According to its web site, the BSEACD's charge is "to conserve, protect, and enhance the groundwater resources in its jurisdictional area."

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