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Reporter’s Notebook: Precious moments

Monday, August 24, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

ICYMI, a rebuttal… On Friday, we mentioned City Council Member Sheri Gallo’s unusual callout of City Manager Marc Ott, who wasn’t physically present on the dais for the conclusion of the short-term rental discussion. As a refresher, Gallo concluded her thank-you speech by saying, “To the city manager, who is not here — because I would’ve hoped that he would have been here to listen to this important discussion — I say, and I would bet the rest of the Council says, and certainly the community says, that we hold you responsible for enforcing the noncompliant owners, and we expect you to make sure that our city departments uphold and enforce our codes and ordinances.” Later in the meeting, Gallo got her response via Mayor Steve Adler, who said, “I’ve had the chance to speak with the city manager since our last break. He heard the comments that you made with respect to the STRs; (he) was watching us on TV but dealing with the issue that will probably be the headline in the newspaper tomorrow. He regrets he couldn’t be sitting here with us but he wanted you to know that he heard what you had said.”

ICYMI, a pretty good speech… Though a refusal to postpone the Springdale Farm case at the request of the neighborhood seemed a pretty clear message about how City Council was going to vote on the issue of allowing the farm to hold more events, Council Member Greg Casar took the time in his closing remarks to caution that the larger issues brought up by opponents should not be dismissed. “I believe a lot of the folks that came and spoke before us now have very legitimate concerns about whether or not this is a space that they feel is truly for that community. You know, I’ve spoken with lots of people on both sides of the issue that live in the nearby neighborhood, but I think it’s important for supporters of the farm and the owners to acknowledge and take seriously the concern that folks have brought up about whether they really feel like this space is for them and a community asset. I recognize that there have been attempts to do so, but it seems clear to me that there’s still work on that front to be done,” said Casar. “People have brought this up as a cause of gentrification. I don’t see it as much of a cause compared to the ruthless global real estate market and our failed urban planning principles and racist institutions that we still deal with every single day, but I think the folks that have brought this up as a symbol or as a symptom of that kind of gentrification do need to be listened to and should be listened to, and I ask every single one of you, whether you’re on one side of this issue or another, if you care about this, to participate in the broader policy debate about investing in affordable housing, even if it’s going to cost all of us a little bit of money and … rewriting and redoing the way we do our planning so that it’s not just up to some neighborhoods to absorb change. … I call on my colleagues to take that issue seriously, and I appreciate the conversation this has begun, but it’s got to be about way more than one small zoning case.”

ICYMI, insider weirdness… During the brief discussion on extending a 12-month, $70,000 to $210,000 contract with the Austin Independent Business Alliance, City Council Member Don Zimmerman questioned whether AIBA Executive Director Rebecca Melançon had “any business connection” with the Austin Bulldog publication. Melançon explained that she had been in the publication business with publisher Ken Martin in the past, but no longer had a business relationship with him. She is, however, married to Martin. And Zimmerman, of course, christened his election to Council by losing a lawsuit that alleged Martin had published a story that was libelous. The court disagreed and ordered Zimmerman to pay Martin’s attorneys’ fees. Anyway, Zimmerman voted against the contract.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebook of editor Elizabeth Pagano.

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