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Reporter’s Notebook: A pornographic departure

Monday, August 31, 2015 by Austin Monitor

We make news… Capital Metro Transportation Authority’s Twitter account went off the rails last week after an apparent security breach led to a decidedly non-family-friendly detour. Shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday, Community Impact’s eagle-eyed reporter Jennifer Curington noticed that @CapMetroATX had quietly started following scores of adult-oriented profiles, including porn stars, adult film production studios and other aggregator accounts with handles too obscene to print (in these pages, at least). Out of pure journalistic principle, a member of the Austin Monitor‘s bullpen duly tweeted the imbroglio’s, uh, money-shot screen grab (NSFW) only to find that @CapMetroATX had in return blocked (SFW) his otherwise intrepid account, along with Curington’s. Capital Metro’s Amy Peck told the Monitor that the blocking was absolutely not an act of retaliation for publicizing the agency’s embarrassment; rather, she said, it was an effort to keep the racy content from displaying on the agency’s website via a subsequently disabled Twitter widget. As of Sunday, @CapMetroATX was back to its old G-rated self and had unblocked Curington, who had also scrubbed her account of any mention of the mess. However, pending an email request for similar consideration, your Monitor scribe was still not privy to @CapMetroATX’s social media pronouncements. Astute readers will note that this is Capital Metro’s second high-profile cyber-security pantsing of 2015. The agency is still trying to determine the cause of the most recent breach, according to Peck, but it appears to have used Occam’s razor to pare down its initial assumptions: Said Peck to the Monitor, “We think we’ve been hacked.”

Gratefully dead… On Wednesday, the Open Space, Environment and Sustainability Committee discussed policies for naming and renaming city parks and their facilities. Everybody seemed to agree that determining whether a person is worthy of having his or her name immortalized on a public facility is difficult, particularly if the person is still alive. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo suggested that the Parks and Recreation Department consider restricting facility names to the deceased, as some other city agencies do, lest a facility’s namesake do something later in life that would lead the community to have second thoughts about the honor bestowed on him or her. “At least there’s a higher likelihood that the information surrounding a particular person is complete at that point, and that individual won’t go on to have a very different path forward that might result in our then receiving emails asking you to rename places,” she said, garnering chuckles. By no means would that be a foolproof policy to prevent future controversy. The information regarding Robert E. Lee was pretty complete when the Austin Independent School District named an elementary school after him in 1939, 69 years after the confederate general’s death.

But what kind of question is it, then?… During last week’s City Council budget discussion, Council Member Don Zimmerman took a moment to question the $15 million or so that Council Member Ora Houston has proposed go toward African-American quality-of-life issues as part of a 10-year plan. “If we went and did, say, I don’t know, $2.5 million or $10 million or whatever it was under the auspices of African-Americans … next year maybe Native Americans would come and ask for $2.5 million, then European Americans, or Indian-Americans, or Asian-Americans. … And then if we didn’t respond accordingly to each group, we could be sued for discrimination,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a legal question, I guess. … We have all kinds of anti-discrimination laws, so I’m confused as to why that wouldn’t open us up to some attack.” Interim City Attorney Anne Morgan told Zimmerman that was not, in fact, a legal question. Houston had her own response, remarking, “I don’t have a legal answer to it, but European Americans have been getting stuff all the time. We’re just trying to catch up.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Caleb Pritchard, Jack Craver and Elizabeth Pagano.

This story has been corrected in order to fix a typo.

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